Saturday Dec. 4 was a huge night for the Dinos men's volleyball team. They won a thriller in front of an ecstatic home crowd, snapping their losing skid by stomping the University of Winnipeg Wesmen in five sets.
After dropping the first set 21-25, the team appeared to be done for when, despite two massive service aces from Sean Kendal, they came up short 14-25 in the second. As fans began to suspect an early end to the evening, a few clever lineup changes by Head Coach Greg Ryan in the third set provided the spark everyone was looking for. Brian Nelis' block gave the Dinos a 2-0 lead and began a snowball of Calgary offense. Impressive acrobatics from setter Glen Handley, during which he crashed through the players' bench, propelled the team to a 25-17 victory.
Rolling through the fourth set with a commanding 25-11 result, the Dinos forced a tie-breaker and came out on top 15-11 to secure their second win of the season. While Nelis' five digs and Handley's remarkable saves were highlights, Eric von Engelbrechten stole the show, converting 21 of 58 sets to kills.
"It's been a long time since I've seen anyone get [almost] 60 sets in a match," said Ryan. "Eric is our go-to guy."
The offensive show continued during Sunday's matinee, with Engelbrechten pacing the match with 15 kills. Ryan's new rotation was again clicking, as the Dinos battled away to win number three. The first set was tight, with the two teams swapping the lead, but solid serving and blocking from Blake Adair gave the Dinos the edge 26-24. Unforced errors by the Wesmen helped the Calgary cause in the second set, resulting in a 25-16 score in favour of the home side.
With the sweep in reach, the Dinos fended off a late Winnipeg charge with solid team defense, including five digs by Tyler Fraser and consistent serving from captain Rob Ellis, to take the match with a 25-22 win. This marked Ellis' return to the lineup after missing the last few weeks due to injury.
The weekend's victories could not have come at a more crucial point of the season. Ryan noted that his squad has been "incredibly injured" thus far, resulting in lineup problems and scramble efforts against some of the best teams in the country. With the holidays fast approaching however, there will be time for his players to recover and prepare for the stretch run to the playoffs. Next up for the Dinos is a pair of matches on Jan. 14-15 at the University of Manitoba Bisons.