The University of Calgary Dinos men's volleyball team was back in action at home this past weekend to host the Husky Dino Cup. Though the team suffered an unfortunate loss three sets to one (25-19, 20-25, 32-30, 25-23) in the gold medal match against the NCAA UCLA Bruins, on the whole, the weekend was a positive one for the v-ballers.
The Dinos were 3-0 heading into the championship final, a statistic that reflects the team's growing confidence and latent enthusiasm, two factors that will be a potent threat for foes during the upcoming regular season. Their defeat of UCLA during round-robin play certainly sends the message that they are prepared to dominate the competition this year, adding to the momentum gained from last year's incredible drive to the playoffs.
Despite the gold medal match defeat, head coach Rod Durrant was pleased with his team's performance throughout the four matches, pointing out that they competed admirably against a school with such history.
"I thought as a team we played very well," he said. "We're going in the right direction. We're still young, we're still growing and I think we'll take a lot from this match."
The long and grueling third set proved to be the turning point for the gold medal match. Complete with extensive rallies, inconsistent service from both squads and a questionable call by the net official accusing the Dinos of a four-hit series, the 32-30 nail-biter proved damaging enough to offset the confidence gained in the second set.
Durrant said unforced errors were the team's greatest third set weakness, though maintained confidence in the team's ability to rebound for the upcoming weekend and the first matches of the regular season.
"[We came] so close," he said. "You know, we had three chances to win the set and we let it go on unforced errors. Three serves really stick out in my mind. But, as a team, we're really supporting each other. They're really positive and they're working really hard so we're really pleased with where we're at this time of year. I think we're ready for next weekend against Saskatchewan. That's what our intention was."
Dinos outside hitter Omar Langford also pinned an improvement in consistency as an overall goal, though he agreed the team will be a force to reckon with come Friday night.
"We're looking good this year," he said. "We're really strong and we usually play really consistently. I think we have strength everywhere. We have weaknesses too, but we're a strong team in almost every way. It's just consistency."
New team acquisitions added strength to the Dinos' weekend performances, including right side Allen Meek, who had 59 kills over the weekend including 20 in the gold medal match. Veteran Andrew Tallas and second-year Ciaran McGovern also played impressively in the Dino Cup final, boasting strong service and defensive skills.
Durrant said the infusion of new players has been a boon for the team, pointing out that it helps the team keep learning from each other.
"There are six new guys that joined the program and I think that's just going to help us get to know each other better," he said. "We're pleased with the personnel we have and we're pleased with what they're doing in practice. We have to improve on all aspects of the game, but we're going in the right direction."