This year's edition of the Husky Dino Cup is already in the books. The Dinos men's volleyball team took to the court Oct. 14-16, hosting the University of Regina Cougars, University of Pacific Tigers and Stanford University Cardinals.
With a young Dinos team testing the waters against some veteran (not to mention Ivy League) competition, Vegas odds makers were not tipping the scales in favour of the home side. That being said, the results from the weekend left a number of fans pleasantly surprised.
Action got under way Friday afternoon as the Dinos squared off against their Canada West rivals from Saskatchewan. Newcomer Steve Gotch made an immediate impression, tallying 14 kills and four service aces in a tightly fought match that saw the Dinos finally on top in five sets (25-16, 21-25, 23-25, 25-22, 15-12).
Hoping to capitalize on the momentum from their win, our team turned around to face the Tigers just a few hours later. While the first set went to the visitors 25-19, the Dinos rallied to take the second 20-25, with solid play at the net.
The teams juggled the lead over the next two sets, with Pacific taking the third 25-22 and the Dinos again rebounding to snatch the next one 20-25.
The Tigers seemed to have a commanding lead in the fifth as they eased ahead 10-3, but Calgary steadily made up ground with defensive grit and strong serving from early crowd favourite Oleg Podporin. They battled back to a 10-9 score, but just couldn't hang on, dropping the match 15-10.
Saturday's main event featured the Cardinals, a perennial juggernaut on the Dino Cup court. The match was incredibly close.
The Dinos refused to let the Americans get any sort of lead. They traded serves for the majority of the game and it seemed as though everything was clicking for the home crew. Unfortunately, some minor defensive miscues and 12 service errors added up to the Dinos falling just short in each set, losing the match 25-21, 25-22 and 25-23.
With a 1-2 record, the Dinos ended up facing Regina in the bronze medal match on Sunday. With pride on the line, they stomped all over the Cougars to take home some hardware in a 3-0 sweep (25-23, 25-21, 25-19).
Eric von Engelbrechten led the charge with 11 kills, with Ryan Lenz contributing four service aces. Although the Dinos had to watch from the sidelines as the Tigers defeated the Cardinals in the gold medal final (25-10, 23-25, 25-17, 25-18), the tournament was a fairly resounding success.
"The long-term of the team looks better than I predicted at this point," admitted Head Coach Greg Ryan. "The match against Stanford was especially illuminating since we played against a veteran team. And we lost primarily because of players being unsure of how to play situations because they were unfamiliar with each other. With some hard work they will continue to gel."
The squad now has a couple of weeks to focus on blocking, serve reception and some team chemistry before they take their show on the road for a date with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds Oct. 28-29.