In a weekend that looked so promising, the University of Calgary men's volleyball team came away with nothing but disappointment.
Perhaps distracted by the prospect of clinching the number one seed and hosting the Canada West Conference final four, the Dinos dropped both games over the weekend to the Brandon University Bobcats. The Dinos may have looked past their opponent, which more often than not comes back to haunt a team in the world of sports.
"We might have gotten a bit ahead of ourselves against Brandon," said David Egan, one of the team captains. "This team hasn't hosted a CanWest Final Four in a long time, and I think we were kind of feeling the pressure."
On Friday night, Brandon came storming out of the gates, jumping out to an early 9-3 lead in the first set. Unfortunately for the Dinos, this was a sign of things to come. The team looked lost and confused throughout the match, a 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-19) win for the Bobcats. Egan thought his team was not mentally prepared for the encounter.
"I think we were a bit shocked by the way they played," he said. "We didn't come out with the right intensity. We broke down in a lot of areas of volleyball and didn't perform to the best of our abilities."
Bobcats standout left side Paul Sanderson had a phenomenal game against the Dinos on Friday, recording 22 kills while committing only four errors in three sets of play.
He is the engine that drives the Brandon offence. Every time they had control of the ball, they would look to Sanderson to slam it home. As predictable as his attacks were, the Dinos simply had no answer for him. Then again, not too many teams have come up with one. Sanderson leads the entire CIS in kills, kills per set and total attacks. He also has one nasty serve, as he is fifth in the country in service aces.
The Dinos came out in Saturday's game with a lot more drive and determination, but they fell short in what was a thrilling match, eventually losing in the fifth set.
Before the match, Omar Langford, Oleg Podporin, Tom Porta, Brendan Ray, Pierre Rocque and Don MacNeill were all honoured as part of Senior Night. This seemed to inspire the team, as the seniors were playing in what was their last home game. The Dinos were statistically better on the night, and were even able to "contain" Sanderson to 25 kills, nearly the same amount as Friday but with two extra sets.
Graham Vigrass and Langford both stepped up in a big way, with 16 and 14 kills respectively. Unfortunately, the Dinos sealed their own fate in the decisive fifth set, committing multiple mental errors. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing weekend for a team who certainly had much higher aspirations heading into it.
On Monday night, the team held a players only meeting to address their recent struggles. When at the top of their game, the Dinos have showed they are right up there with the top teams in the nation, but they will need to get back to their early season form to have any shot in the playoffs.
"We've struggled in the last couple of weeks, but I'm hoping we can right the ship this coming weekend and get back rolling like we were in the first semester," said Egan.
It may not be time to hit the panic button just yet, but this coming weekend will determine whether the Dinos enter the playoffs a confident bunch, or merely limp in.