The Dinos men's volleyball team closed out their home schedule in style over the weekend, sweeping their playoff series with the University of Manitoba Bisons. With the wins, the Dinos clinched a spot in this weekend's Canada West Final Four, which will be hosted at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. After the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack won their playoff series Sunday, the Dinos also have a guaranteed spot in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships.
After the first two sets in Thursday's opener, it looked like the Dinos could be in for a long weekend. They made mental errors, and the defence was not up to par. The third set marked the turning point in what would turn out to be a short weekend for the Dinos, who showed why they deserve their number four national ranking. They took Thursday's match by a score of 3-1 (27-25, 23-25, 25-12, 27-25), and pounded Manitoba on Friday by a score of 3-0 (25-14, 30-28, 25-15).
Head coach Rod Durrant was happy with the way his team responded.
"We were a little tight on Thursday, we addressed it as a team, and we got better from it. There was no question who the better team was on Friday."
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Dinos' game over the weekend was their play late in close sets. On three occasions over the weekend a set was extended, and on all three occasions the Dinos came out victorious.
"They showed good resilience in the part of the sets that really mattered," said Durrant. "From 20 on they looked comfortable, and in those situations that is very important."
This is a good sign for a Dinos team that will most certainly find itself in many similar situations over the next two weeks. It is in these moments where championships are won and lost.
Another positive for the Dinos has been the emergence of Graham Vigrass. After suffering through a stint of mononucleosis earlier in the season, he is now healthy and it has done wonders for his game. Vigrass continued his strong play of late, leading the team with 26 kills over the two games and chipping in with nine blocks. The towering Vigrass, who stands at 6'8", is playing his best volleyball of the season at the best possible time for his team.
Though Vigrass has been playing well, it is hard to credit the Dinos' success to any one individual.
"We have guys coming off the bench that are doing a tremendous job for us," said Durrant. "We have more than just one or two weapons. We have guys who are going out and playing with the type of confidence we need to be successful."
This weekend's Final Four will serve as a seeding tournament for the CIS championship, which will be hosted March 12-14 in Kamloops, B.C.
The CanWest conference has three berths in the national championship, but because the Wolfpack are hosting the CIS tournament, all four teams participating this weekend in the CW Final Four will move on to nationals.
For the Dinos, it will be their first appearance in a national championship since 2003.