With high expectations the Dinos men's volleyball team took to the court on Feb. 13 looking to advance to the Canada West final four and the CIS championships. Coming into the post-season with the strongest record any of the current players had seen, and with the added boon of home-court advantage, the Dinos hit the Jack Simpson Gym with the determination to fight to the finish. Unfortunately, after a win on Friday night, the weekend play favoured the opposing University of Winnipeg Wesmen and the Dinos lost the best of three series 2-1. The final scores were 3-2 (30-28, 23-25, 25-22, 16-25, 15-13), 2-3 (22-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 10-15), and 2-3 (31-29, 24-26, 22-25, 26-24, 9-15)
Despite the loss, a summary glance at the matches reveals how nail-bitingly entertaining the play was during the post-season's opening weekend. The Dinos were nothing if not warriors in their efforts to trump the visiting team. They can take strength in knowing that they refused to roll over, even when things looked grim.
Left-side Chris Hoag delivered 35 kill shots and a smattering of service aces over the course of the weekend, helping to keep the series close.
"We should be really proud of the way we fought in bringing them to five sets each game and winning one game," Hoag noted. "It could have gone either way, so we're glad we fought. It's better than losing two games in three straight sets."
Media speculation leading up to the match suggested that the Dinos may be overwhelmed by Winnipeg's recent experience in the post-season. Though the Dinos eked into the playoffs last year, Winnipeg was a runner-up at nationals.
"Had we been blown out, I'd say, sure, it was [the lack of experience]," head coach Rod Durrant commented. "But it wasn't that we were blown out. We won Friday night in five, the next two nights we had an opportunity as much to win in five as lose in five. Unfortunately, we weren't able to execute on Saturday night in the fifth set then on Sunday in the fifth set."
Durrant also noted Winnipeg's "confidence" as a contributing factor to the opposing team's success, though continued that the loss will come with a lesson.
"It's not a good feeling," Durrant said. "But hopefully we'll be better for it. Now we have that experience and now we have been there and the guys can use that as motivation to improve. All you can try to do is get better. They will all grow up from it and they will move forward."
Some weekend wows were delivered by Omar Langford, who scored 25 kill shots on Friday night alone, and Ciaran McGovern, who piled up 150 assists over the three days. One can not dismiss the team-wide effort to clean up serving, which resulted in the accruement of 10 service aces just on Sunday.
Despite the frustration of losing in five sets on both Saturday and Sunday after a hard-earned victory on Friday, the team is optimistic about next season. The men's volleyball team has no members in their final year, meaning they will all have the opportunity to return and dominate next season.
"We're very excited about [next year] and having everyone back, hopefully," Hoag said. "It's a good thing for us because we won't have to reconstruct that cohesion that every team has to find when people leave and come. We're going to have the same team with big goals and next year I think will be the right one."