For the first time in the Dino Cup's 19-year history, women's volleyball was included in the tournament draw Oct. 14-16. In recent years, our ladies have played their first regular season home games during the event, but this year invited the Universite de Montreal Carabins, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds and the University of Alberta Pandas to vie for gold alongside the men.
"We were pretty motivated," commented Head Coach Kevin Boyles on the race for gold. "There was more on the line."
The Dinos opened the tournament with an "ohh la la" Friday evening against the U de M. The first set was the most trying, but ended with a 25-22 Dinos win. The following two sets waved the Carabins a final au revoir (25-18, 25-17). Montreal continued through the tournament without a win, leaving their dignity, baguettes, wine and wheels of cheese in Calgary.
"We saw from Montreal the calibre they're capable of, but not until later in the tournament," admitted Boyles, adding that play in the West is different than they're used to. "We're the first Western team they've seen in two years."
Rookie Lauren Spence earned some time in the spotlight, with a game-high 12 kills.
The next game for our ladies provided the chance to exact revenge from the T-Birds team that eliminated them in last year's national semi-final, crushing the Dinos' golden hopes and halting their undefeated season. Our ladies relished the opportunity with a most tardy catch-up that left UBC speechless and fans drenched in condiments that fell off their hot dogs and into their laps.
Our ladies made sure to give the T-Birds some false hope to cling to, just so it would sting a little as their wings were clipped and they were caged. The first set began with the Dinos dangling a $20 bill over the net, giving the T-Birds an 11-16 lead. Just as UBC's hand was closing around the prize, the Dinos snapped up the game 25-22.
The Dinos rubbed in their superiority, embarrassing the Birds 25-13 and 25-19 in the remaining sets. Holly Harper was all over the court, grabbing eight kills, six digs and a service ace for the Dinos.
After the two easy wins, the Dinos began to act like your relaxed grandfather--sleeping on the recliner with a hand down his pants. Evidently, this is not the ready position and the Pandas seized the first two sets of Saturday's game (25-23, 25-20).
"It was more to do with us than with them," Boyles lamented. "We made a significant number of errors."
The grandfathers awoke with startling alertness, leveling the score with two convincing sets (17-25, 18-25). The deciding game was a doozy, as they say. Who 'they' are, no one can be sure, but 'they' are the authority on what words are okay. Moving along, the Dinos managed to keep their momentum going, attaining an early lead.
This was unfortunately not to last. The Pandas jumped ahead 7-6 just before the technical break and ran every red light in their way. They managed to stay ahead, taking the game 15-12.
"We didn't come out strong," Dino Lauren Perry admitted. "We were too late to come back."
The game was much more challenging on both sides than previous games. Harper, Perry and Janelle Findlay were the top Dino attackers with 16, 14 and 13 kills respectively. Also worth mentioning were the 51 sets Natalie Schwartz lobbed to the appropriate spots around the court.
Luckily, by some nifty scoring scheme, the Dinos earned a spot in the gold medal match based on their first two wins. This pitted them against the T-Birds yet again on Sunday.
The Dinos appreciated the second clash with UBC, who they won't meet again until after Christmas. The game was a bit closer than the last against UBC, but yielded similar results.
The T-Birds battled hard early on in the first set, earning an 8-6 lead at the first technical break. A four-point run later in the game gave the Dinos a 16-14 edge. The points were back and forth before two blocks from Perry spurred a final push, ending the game 25-20.
The second and third sets went back and forth between the teams again, with Calgary ending up on top of both, 27-25 and 25-21.
"Any time you play a top team and are successful, it gives you a bit of a mental edge," commented Boyles on the confidence the Dinos have heading into their regular season.
Perry had a solid 14 kills and 13 digs for the Dinos while Harper and Neda Boroumand added 10 kills and 10 digs respectively.
"We finished on a good note," Schwartz said of the tournament overall, "but there's always a little part of me that hates losing to the U of A."
The tournament's all-star list included Perry, Harper and Schwartz--the Most Valuable Player.
The Dinos begin their regular season Oct. 21-22 in the Jack Simpson Gymnasium, with games both days at 7 p.m. against the University of Manitoba Bisons.
"We're really ready to get into some games that actually mean something," Schwartz said.
So come out and get your thrills while they're fresh.