When it came down to it, the University of Calgary women's volleyball team did what they were expected to do.
The Dinos won the Canada West Conference, clinched a spot at the national championships at the Université du Laval on Mar. 7--9 and got a tough win against the University of British Columbia with the conference title on the line. However, as with all things Dino, the squad sure made it interesting when they lost a 3--2 match on Sat., Feb. 23 to let the Thunderbirds back into the three game series.
"I didn't think we panicked yesterday," said Head Coach Kevin Boyles, obviously relieved with his team's 3--0 effort the very next day. "It's tough to bounce back like that. We showed a lot of heart and a lot of maturity. I think that if they could get the first set they would have kept fighting but once we took that set they looked really tired and started thinking 'let's get ready for nationals.'"
Both teams secured a berth at the national tournament by making the Canada West finals, but the first seed and conference bragging rights were at stake. The Dinos came through in a big way, especially after a disappointing second match.
"We really pride ourselves on how hard we hit the ball," said captain Amanda Moppett who led the Dinos with 11 kills and 10 digs in the third and deciding match. "We're a hard hitting team and our middles showed up and showed that they were much stronger than them.
"Right now we're peaking," she continued with a grin. "But we're not looking past anyone. We have to play one point at a time and one game at a time."
Moppett and crew were ousted in the quarterfinals of last year's national tournament despite being among the favourites to challenge for the crown. This season, the only goal was to get another shot at the big trophy. An 18--2 regular season record followed by the Canada West title insured the Dinos will get their chance at redemption.
Standing in the way will be teams like UBC, as well as the defending champions, the University of Manitoba Bisons. UBC's Leah Allinger brutalized the Dinos with 24 kills in Saturday's victory and poses a great threat despite being shut down in the deciding game. Manitoba brings a veteran lineup and the Canada West Most Valuable Player Kathy Preston. However, the Dinos stars have been superb lately, and certainly stand out as the most well rounded team in the nation.
"I think Moppett, more than anybody, showed what kind of heart she has and what kind of athlete she is," said Boyles of his injured captain. "And [rookie Natalie Schwartz] is playing like a fifth-year."
"When the team got rattled she got rattled a little bit but today she was solid, stayed within herself. Heather Wearmouth, our veteran backup, came in and played great too."
Calgary is three wins away from their ultimate goal and have cause for optimism with solid play from middles Tracy Keats and Jill Friend. The Dinos have said all year that they had one goal and three more games now stand between them and a happy ending at Laval.
When asked what his team will do to prepare for nationals, Boyles said he would give the team a light week in practice to help them heal up.
"Maybe the girls want to go bowling or something," he said. "You know, stick together."
Andy Holland, a member of the world renowned Dinos men's volleyball team, was superb in his heckling during Saturday's match. According to sources in the crowd, Holland called every UBC set and managed to spread confusion among UBC's ranks.