By Emilie Medland-Marchen, March 7 2017 —
The University of Calgary Dinos women’s volleyball team fell to the University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat in the second match of the Canada West quarterfinals on March 4. The two teams faced off in the Jack Simpson Gym again on March 5, but after four sets the Heat came out on top in a 3–1 win. With the loss, the Dinos missed out on a chance to play in the Canada West Final Four and ended their season.
The March 4 match was a stagnant game defined by back-and-forth play and one-point moments that could have led to a win for either team. But despite a valiant effort from the Dinos, UBCO ultimately took the second of three games in a 3–2 five-set match (20–25, 29–27, 21–25, 28–26, 13–15), pushing the Dinos to a winner-take-all third game.
Dinos head coach Natalie Gurnsey knew coming into the match that UBCO would be a tough team to beat.
“UBCO came to play tonight,” she said. “They definitely put some pressure on us tonight. They came to battle.”
After besting UBCO 3–0 (25–21, 25–22, 25–13) on March 3, the Dinos couldn’t maintain their early momentum in the second game of the series. A late-game comeback pushed the match into a tied fifth set, but UBCO eventually came out on top in the last few rallies of the game.
The night was dominated by talents like second-year outside hitter Kate Pexman, fourth-year middle Jaylynn Moffatt and rookie Hannah Tanasichuk, all who had double-digit kills. But despite the Dinos’ powerful offensive effort, a series of slip-ups in the last few rallies of each set allowed UBCO to inch their way to a narrow win.
“There were a few moments that [Tanasichuk] went in and blocked against the middle — that’s a risky play for us, so that was huge,” Gurnsey said. “But I think the difference maker was the two races at the end for UBCO.”
UBCO came out fighting in the first set of the match, securing a 5–2 lead over the Dinos early on in the game. But the U of C recovered quickly from their early jitters, tying up the game 13–13 mid-set. Some errors from the Dinos’ side towards the end of the set allowed for UBCO to recover their early lead and take it 25–20.
Both teams were tied for kills 15–15 at the end of the second set — a theme that would carry on throughout the rest of the night. The Dinos secured an early 7–2 lead at the start of the set, but UBCO quickly caught up again and forced the Dinos into a deadlocked slog for the majority of the set. Some solid plays from Pexman allowed for the Dinos to squeeze in a 29–27 victory late in the set.
UBCO came back swinging in the third set — although the Dinos won the set in kills, an even number of errors allowed for the Heat’s consistent defense to edge out the Dinos 25–21. In the fourth, the Dinos did all they could to push the game into a fifth set.
In the fifth set, the Dinos were down on kills but remained even with UBCO on errors. Pexman and Tanasichuk had both reached the double-digits in kills on the night, plus 18 and six digs respectively. But even their stellar play couldn’t bring the Dinos the results they needed to move on in the series. In an end-game clinch, UBCO took the set 15–13 over the Dinos — ending the previously tied match with a 3–2 score.
Gurnsey credits the success of the team this season to their health and ability to stave off injury.
“We’ve always had all these people on the team, but they haven’t stayed healthy enough to play the whole season,” Gurnsey said. “That’s been so key for us, that our best players are on the board and they’re playing every single match.”
After losing out on their chance to secure a spot in the Canada West Final Four, the women’s volleyball team faced UBCO again on March. 5. UBCO’s fire continued in the third match, pushing the Dinos out of the playoffs and ending their stellar comeback season in a 3–1 (22–25, 22–25, 30–28, 24–26) win.