The new year brings new hope for peace in the Middle East. The new year brings new hope for a cure for AIDS. The new year brings new hope for thousands of poverty-stricken Canadian children. However, for the Trinity Western University men's volleyball team, the new year brought no hope of defeating the red-hot Dinos.
Last weekend in the warm confines of the Jack Simpson Gymnasium, the home squad swept both matches against the Spartans, upping their Canada West conference record lead to an astonishing 11 wins against only one loss.
The first match of 2001 provided the Dinos with a scare as the men from TWU came out firing on all cylinders. The Spartans seemed to feed off the dozens of TWU fans scattered throughout the gym and played scrappy volleyball to force the match to a fifth set. The visitors' strong performance, coupled with questionable officiating and some sloppy play by the home team made the match very tight before the Dinos finally played up to their national championship potential, winning 3-2, 15-11 in the fifth and final set. Bill Byma, fighting off illness, led the way with 22 kills and eight digs for the Dinos while Luke Bainard paced the way for the Spartans with 15 kills and six digs.
"We didn't play with the right kind of focus," Head Coach Greg Ryan said of Friday's performance. "Our play was pretty ragged and really disjointed."
It appeared as though the Dinos needed only a single match to get back into game shape. On Saturday evening, the Dinos, ranked second in the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union, played an outstanding match and promptly thumped the Spartans 3-0. The team relied on an effective middle attack by fifth-year players Wes Montgomery and Jon Walsh and solid defence by libero Scott Lahey who thrilled the fans with numerous eye-popping digs.
"Lee [Czernick, the Dinos setter], over time, has become much more comfortable running middle attacks," said Ryan.
The Kazakh phenom, Denis Zhukov, earned Player of the Game honours with 11 kills, 10 digs and an extraordinary five service aces.
The Dinos remained in first place in the Canada West conference with an 11-1 record by virtue of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies sweep of the University of Alberta Golden Bears last weekend. The Dinos found themselves with a three-game lead over their provincial rivals. The losses suffered by TWU drop their record to 1-11 for the season.
Next up for the Dinos is a showdown this weekend with the undefeated and top-ranked team in the country, the University of Manitoba Bisons.
"All of the weekends are big weekends," said Ryan. "If we keep playing well, then things will fall into place."
Games are at the Jack Simpson on Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m. It's free for all U of C students with a valid student ID card.