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the Gauntlet

Dinos take fourth straight CIS bronze

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The end of the line has come for the University of Calgary women's volleyball team and bronze is the colour that will accompany them home on the trek back from Fredericton. After an up-and-down season, the Dinos showed grit and determination, battling every step of the way, but came up a mite short in the end. Still, the season will not be looked upon as a failure, moreover small victories turned into great achievements. Every team wants to win the gold, or the national trophy, but most teams must find other types of victory.

Heading into the national tournament, the Dinos were left with mixed feelings over the results of the Canada West final four. After an astonishing victory over UBC, a team that had dominated Calgary in their meetings this past season, the women fell to their provincial rivals in the first-place match, settling for second place in Canada West and one of three berths in the national tournament. Despite losing to the University of Alberta, Dinos coach Kevin Boyles was impressed with their play during the final four.

"Our UBC match was one of the best come-back victories that I've ever been a part of," said Boyles prior to the national tournament last week. "UBC is a very good team and really jumped on us in the first two sets."

Boyles added the Dinos won with a combination of the depth that has been evident on the team throughout the year, which also added a level of energy that might have been missing early in the match.

"We were able to completely change our look in the third set and brought some significant energy to the court to turn things around," said Boyles. "Laura Wilson was excellent off the bench, as was Kathryn Moncks. Our captain, Julie Young, showed her versatility by switching from the left side to the libero position and took control of our back court."

Still, when it came down to it the Dinos fell in the final match to the Pandas 25-27, 25-19, 26-24, 25-22. Boyles felt the Dinos women really earned their stripes over the weekend, but still have to iron out a few kinks.

"The weekend was ultra-competitive and the volleyball was really good," he said. "We felt that we had excellent opportunities to take U of A in the final, but made untimely errors that hurt us down the stretch."

As the Dinos headed to Fredericton, Boyles believed they were ready for nationals.

The first round of the national tournament went as well as any would have liked to predict. The Dinos handled McMaster 25-20, 25-13, 25-19, and were looking strong heading into the semi-finals.

"We were pretty happy with the way all our players played," said Boyles. "We had the opportunity to get some of our opening round jitters out and 11 of our players stepped on the court."

All was not rosy for the volleysaurs though and the semifinal match against the Montreal Carabins proved more than the team could handle. The university women dropped the game 25-14, 22-25, 25-20, 25-22. This meant that, instead of facing the UBC team they had beat the week before in the west playoffs and playing for the gold medal, the Dinos women were left with the consolation match against their Alberta rivals.

What a match that proved to be though and the Dinos proved they still had some bite left in them. The match was an epic, nail-biting affair. The Pandas and Dinos split the first four sets 24-26, 25-19, 22-25, 25-19, fighting it out and leaving only the fifth set as the clincher for the bronze medal. The Dinos came out slow in the final set and found themselves trailing 9-4 on the verge of defeat and a disappointing fourth-place finish. Somehow, the women switched into another gear and stormed back, finally clinching the match 17-15.

In the end, they came back and clinched another bronze medal, their fourth in as many years, but still the team is left wondering what might have been. The perpetually deep and talented roster will remain virtually unchanged for next season. But, will another year of experience and a somewhat disappointing finish prove to be what's needed to push them over the edge? However the 2008-09 season unfolds, it will surely prove to be just as exciting as this past season for Dinos fans, a season painted in bronze.

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