It was win–win for the University of Calgary men's volleyball team last weekend as the Dinos swept the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, effectively protecting their spot as the second–place team in the Canada West conference.
Showing a growth in confidence both defensively and offensively, the Dinos managed to overcome their nerves and put a decisive stamp of victory on both matches, winning 3–2 on Jan. 10 (27-25, 21-25, 23-25, 25-22, 15-9) and 3–1 on Jan. 11 (25-23, 25-27, 25-20, 25-23).
Despite the momentum the Dinos have gained since last year's playoffs, they remain cautious about resting on their laurels, especially since the home stretch to the post-season finds them squaring off against three teams that are nipping at their heels in the standings.
Head coach Rod Durrant is especially concerned about improving the team's serving consistency. He noted that the shift in momentum after losing the second set during Sunday's match resulted from the team focusing harder on serves that are "good" rather than ones that are "easy."
"We missed 10 serves in the second set and lost 27–25," said Durrant. "The third and fourth set we missed two and four serves and [we finished] those two sets successfully. We're a good team and I think that reflected in the scores in both sets three and four, but at this level, you can't afford to miss 10 serves in a set. I think we recognized that after the second set."
Second–year setter Ciaran McGovern agreed that the team's success Sunday resulted from their servers stepping up, though he also suggested that in order to remain victorious in the weeks to come, consistency and energy in all aspects of the game are paramount.
"I think we just gotta execute all the time and make sure we're not seeing any lapses, especially against the teams we need to beat," he said, referencing the upcoming matches against fifth-place Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack, fourth-place University of Winnipeg Wesmen and sixth-place Brandon University Bobcats.
The finesse McGovern exhibits in his own position will come in handy during the weeks to come. He is currently ranked first in the country for assists, registering over 100 in the past weekend alone.
Other impressive performances came from outside hitter Omar Langford, who had 28 kills Saturday and was recently named the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Athlete of the Week, and libero Tom Porta, who helped rally the team defensively.
Though aware of the challenging road ahead, Durrant is quick to give his team props for the hard work and effort they've committed towards taking the team to the strongest position the Dinos have been in for years.
"We still have a long way to go in the regular season, but we've developed into a good group of guys that are working hard," he said. "As a team, we're realizing what we need to do to be successful and that's to play as a unit out on the court. We're pleased with where we're at after this weekend."
As always, Durrant is sure to keep at least one eye on the road ahead, noting the team's upcoming challenge against the University of Winnipeg Wesmen, who finished second last year in the national championship.
"Those will be two more big matches," he said, adding that a silver lining for their efforts could be found in the opportunity to "get better and grow as a team."