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Jon Roe/the Gauntlet

Pandas first test for Dinos

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With two more pre-season victories under their belt, the Dinos women's volleyball squad is ready to start the season -- well, as ready as they're going to be to head to Edmonton and take on the fifth-ranked team in the nation, the University of Alberta Pandas.

"Pretty much [the] toughest thing to ask out of a Calgary Dinos team is to go to Alberta and open the season," says head coach Jesse Knight, whose squad sits one spot ahead of the Pandas in the national rankings. "But I'm happy that we're heading the right direction, so yeah, I feel pretty confident."

The Dinos beat the Brandon University Bobcats during the Husky Dino Cup this past weekend in straight sets in both matches after losing in straight sets to the defending national champion University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. The T-Birds won a five-set match over the Dinos to take the national title last season, and the Dinos weren't quite up to the task to take them on again Thursday.

"I think that UBC is a veteran team," says Knight. "So obviously they've played together quite a bit and are close to where they should be right now. We're not even close to where we'll be in March. I really don't care how we fare against UBC from now until March. I care about how we fare against them in March and who we're going to be, from now until March, is totally a different team, so I'll be excited about that."

After their matches against the Pandas to start the season, the Dinos play six of their next eight matches at home. The Pandas may be the toughest team they face during the fall semester, with no currently nationally ranked teams on tap until the eighth-ranked Trinity Western University Spartans hit the Jack Simpson floor at the end of November.

"I think Alberta is always hard to beat, but I think that if you stay focused and stay engaged you can have success against Alberta," he says. "Alberta's very well coached and they work hard, and that's the challenge, for sure. We feel like we can beat them, but we know it takes a lot of work."

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