Though the men's volleyball team missed out on an opportunity to host the Canada West final four, they're back where they wanted to be: hosting a quarterfinal playoff series with an eye on erasing last year's heartbreaking three-match, five-set loss to the University of Winnipeg Wesmen.
"We reflected back and used that as an example throughout the season," said Dinos head coach Rod Durrant. "We want to get back to that quarterfinal and we want to perform to our best. I think there is some motivation for that, some people might say that's pressure. I'd say it's only pressure if you're concerned about the outcome and not the process."
Last year, much like this one, the Dinos finished second in Canada West with a 13-5 record and took on a veteran Wesmen squad, which had appeared in the last two national finals. After taking game one, the Dinos fell in games two and three. This year the Dinos host the University of Manitoba Bisons, who finished with a 9-9 record.
It was a season of high expectations. The team bounced around the top two spots in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport rankings for the first month before settling in fourth to finish off the season. Along the way, they took out this Bisons squad in two straight matches in Calgary in November by 3-0 and 3-1 match scores. Those results are irrelevant, according to Durrant.
"It's still about executing this week, not giving up any points," he said. ". . . At the end of the day, they're better than they were back in November and we're different than we were in November."
This weekend series, which starts today at 7 p.m. at the Jack Simpson Gym, features two of the most accurate hitters in Canada West. Dinos Oleg Podporin leads the conference with a .453 percentage after picking up 129 kills against 27 errors in 225 attempts and Bison Steve Goertzen is third with a .427 percentage with 79 kills and 15 errors in 150 total attempts.
The Bisons, which lead the conference in blocking, has three players in the top 10 in blocks per game. Joseph Brooks is second with 1.18 per game, Goertzen sixth with 1.08 and Dana Pischke 10th with 0.94.
Six Dinos will be stepping onto the Jack Simpson Gym floor for their final career match this weekend. Omar Langford, Podporin, Tom Porta, Don MacNeill, Pierre Rocque and Brendan Ray hope they can extend their season and reach the national tournament for the first time since 2003.
Durrant explained it was all about having faith in the year of build up that has led them back to a home quarterfinal date for the second year in a row.
"The most important thing for us to do is to play with confidence, to play to win."