It wasn't easy, but the men's volleysaurs managed to eke their way into post-season contention after splitting play with the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack Feb. 8-9. Going in to the weekend, the men were required to pull at least one win from the double-header to continue to the playoffs. While Fri. night's nail-biter failed to end in the Dinos' favour with final set scores posted as 13-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-23, 15-11, the volleysaurs managed to synthesize nerves into victory on Sat. night following four intense sets with 21-25, 26-28, 29-27, 25-27. The win propelled the Dinos from eighth to sixth place in the conference.
On Fri. night, Omar Langford, Andrew Tallas and Oleg Podporin were all impressive on offence and Scott Price opened the match with an extensive service run. Tallas was also strong on defence with nine digs. Despite the Dinos' efforts, their play was shut down by WolfPackers like Robin Schoebel with 26 kills and Graham Allard with nine digs.
However, Tallas and Price continued their well-rounded play in Saturday's match, while Graham Vigrass--also a first-year--had a notable performance, registering eight kills for the evening. The team's combined efforts were rewarded with the win that brought them into the post-season.
"It's a big win for this program," said head coach Rod Durrant, noting the team's inability to secure a playoff spot for the last five years. "Certain guys stepped up and had really good matches and as a group we were able to withstand a very good opponent and find a way to win."
Durrant also alluded to the weekend's tension by emphasizing the importance of every point.
"There's a small difference between winning and losing," he commented. "It's one good serve, it's one dig, it's one block. It's those small little quality plays out there that allow us to be successful."
Following the weekend's excitement, the Dinos' hit the courts once again for an intensified version of practice that was focused on two themes already familiar to the players. Taking care of the ball on their side by improving consistency in all aspects of play was of utmost importance to the team, as was with working on the quality of the service game. Strategy against their first playoff opponent, the third-ranked University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, was also discussed. The Dinos will face them starting Valentine's Day in a best-of-three series that will take place over the weekend.
Coach Durrant was willing to give credit where credit was due to the T-Birds, but stubbornly asserted that the team's superior ranking was in no way a guarantee of victory.
"UBC's a very good team," said Durrant. "They've been to the nationals. We respect them and we know what they're capable of. They have some very good athletes and they're coached very well. We need to be at our best," said Durrant.
Playoff success or not, the coach was impressed with the Dinos' overall regular season play, as well as with their conduct on and off the court.
"They're a good team," said Durrant. "They support each other. They have fun with each other and there's a real positive vibe when they're together. I like our work ethic. There're always little dips in the climb, but we've rebounded to get to an eight-and-ten record and to get into the playoffs. That, in my opinion, is ahead of schedule."
The Dinos face the Thunderbirds on Thu. night, Sat. afternoon, and Sun. afternoon this weekend in Vancouver at the Tournament Capital Centre. The matches will be available via webcast on the Dinos website.