In the two weeks approaching the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Women's Volleyball Championship, the Dinos women's volleyball team have been rudely awakened. Having a secure spot at the national championship as hosts, they slept comfortably all season dreaming of the final few games. With those games now upon us, our ladies must recover from the buckets of water they were doused with, the intense light switched on overhead and the blasting music of their alarm clocks that have plagued them throughout the Canada West playoffs.
Those rascally University of Alberta Pandas were at it again Feb. 17-18 as the Dinos traveled to Edmonton for a best-of-three CW quarter-final against the mischievous Asian bears. The Pandas came ready to fight and splashed the sleeping Dinos with gallons of frigid water. Unfortunately, our ladies couldn't get untangled from their sopping wet duvets in time.
The initial icy splash helped the Dinos stay alert throughout the first half of Friday's first set. But after tying the set at 14 points, the adrenaline quickly wore off. The Pandas took 11 of the next 15 points to grab a 25-18 win.
The second set was closer as the Dinos nipped at the Pandas' ankles for most of the set. However, the Pandas managed three straight points towards the end to win 25-21 and gain a two-set lead. Things began to look grim as the Pandas led the third set 23-18. The Dinos attempted to prove their worthiness, going on a four-point run to get within one point. Unfortunately the teams traded the next three points, with the Pandas winning the two they needed to secure the game with a 25-23 win.
Julie Young led the Dinos' attack with nine kills and the same number of digs. Natalie Schwartz was all over the court, bustin' out 27 assists, a service ace, three kills and four digs.
"We need to block some balls to win," stated Dinos head coach Kevin Boyles, mentioning the improvements made. "We went from zero to 16 stuff blocks the second game."
The very evenly matched teams met for game two on Saturday and the Dinos began to stir. The Pandas slowly chipped away at the first set, managing to win 25-22. The lead in the second set was exchanged like Pokemon cards in an elementary school until, with the game knotted at 25, a pair of painful Panda service aces downed the Dinos 27-25.
But this was not how the Dinos wanted the Pandas to remember them. They took a 4-5 lead in the third set and didn't look back. A late six-point run put them convincingly ahead 13-22. The Pandas replied with six points of their own, but were unable to make the full comeback and dropped the set 20-25.
"Our confidence was a lot higher," Young said of the marginally better Dinos performance the second game, adding that they'll be ready if the teams meet again at nationals. "We know now that we can beat them."
Just as the Dinos were lighting a match in the U of A gym, the fire crew showed up and opened up the hose full force on our ladies. The Pandas took full advantage, quickly jumping to a ridiculous 17-4 lead. After this point, there was not much the Dinos could do and the set went the Pandas' way 25-13.
Lauren Perry had nine kills for the Dinos as well as seven digs. Neda Boroumand led the defense with 12 digs while Young added 10 digs and six kills.
Despite the losses, the Dinos advanced to the CW Final Four Feb. 23-24 at the University of British Columbia in the wild card spot.
"It was crucial for us to go," Schwartz said of the Final Four tournament. "The experience of playing the country's top teams again was very beneficial."
"We needed to play that tournament for rhythm and confidence," agreed Boyles.
On Thursday, the Dinos found themselves squinting into the light emitted by the top-ranked UBC Thunderbirds. Faced with this blinding light, a shit show ensued. The T-Birds secured a 25-21 win the first set, implying that the Dinos were a worthy opponent. However, a 25-9 UBC second set made the Dinos look like they had just been mesmerized by an eclipse and were now unable to see the ball.
"They're a good team," admitted Dino Carolyn MacDonald, "but there's a lot more we can do."
And on that note, the Dinos tossed on some sunglasses and overpowered the T-Birds with 20-25 and 22-25 third and fourth sets. As if this turn of events wasn't strange enough, the T-Birds flipped things back around for a 15-5 deciding set.
"We lost the second set so badly," MacDonald commented. "To come back and win the third and fourth said something about who we are."
MacDonald led the Dinos' attack with 13 kills and three service aces while adding seven digs. Boroumand had 17 digs while Schwartz put up 40 assists, eight digs and three kills.
The loss to UBC pitted the Dinos against the Trinity Western University Spartans in the CW bronze medal match on Friday. Despite the previous night's beating, a blaring alarm clock startled the Dinos to a 3-10 lead in the first set against the Spartans. This would not last however; the pesky snooze button allowed the Spartans to scrape out a 25-22 win.
Things continued back and forth for the remainder of the match. In the second set, the Dinos fought back from being down 17-14 to pull off a 24-26 win. The third set continued in similar fashion with the Dinos ahead 3-8, then down 16-13. After tying the game twice, the Dinos faltered and TWU took a 25-23 win. It was the Dinos' turn again in the fourth set. They tied the game with a 23-25 win.
The back-and-forth battle continued into the final set. The Dinos had their chance with a 13-14 match point, but were unable to capitalize. The Spartans took the next three points for a 16-14 set and match winner.
"It was good," Perry said of the efforts against TWU. "We were trying to find a way to win."
Young had 17 kills for the Dinos as well as 11 digs. Perry was next on the attack with 15 kills and 18 digs. Deanna Delisle followed closely with 12 digs, two service aces and seven assisted blocks in the losing effort. Schwartz put up a huge 49 assists in the effort, adding three kills, a service ace and 20 digs. Wow. Boroumand kept the ball in the air with 20 digs.
"We've come to the point where we've realized we're not going to be at full strength again," Boyles said. "But we refuse to give up."
The Dinos have one last chance to not give up at the CIS Women's Volleyball Championship right here at the University of Calgary. The Dinos' first game is a rematch against the Spartans Thu., Mar. 2 at 8 p.m. in the Jack Simpson Gymnasium.
"We're getting nothing but better with every game," promised Schwartz.
"I feel like we can play with any team in the country," Boyles added. "In single elimination play, no one looks forward to playing us."
For the full tournament draw, schedule and ticket information, check out www.godinos.com.