The Pandas are in bamboo heaven.
After taking away the women’s volleyball Canada West championship from the University of Manitoba Bisons the previous weekend, the University of Alberta Pandas followed it up with a four-set Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship win over the Université de Laval Rouge et Or in Calgary Sat., Mar. 3. The title was the Pandas’ seventh, and their first since a string of six-in-a-row from 1995-2000.
“It’s the highs of the sport that keep you coming back,” said Pandas head coach Laurie Eisler.
“There’s a lot of lows to get here but every athlete, every coach should have a chance to have this feeling.”
The Pandas were led by CIS player of the year Tiffany Dodds who followed up an unbelievable 32 kill game on Friday with a
team-high 17 kills in Saturday’s win over Laval.
“[My team] was proud of me for [the 32 kills,] but they weren’t expecting anything more,” said Dodds, who was also named the tournament’s most valuable player. “It’s all about everyone coming to play today and performing. It’s not about those numbers up on the board; it’s the gold medal around your neck at the end.”
The Rouge et Or were unable to match their dominating 3-0 semi-final sweep of the Trinity Western Spartans in Saturday’s gold medal game, and instead were plagued by mistakes throughout the sets against the Pandas.
“[Dodds] provoked confusion, and she provoked some mistakes,” said Laval head coach Benoit Robitaille. “One set we made three, four mistakes and that’s too much. The confidence went down, over time, and there was a lot of confusion.”
Robitaille led Laval to a perfect 37-0 record last year as they captured their first CIS gold medal in the team’s history against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds on the same Calgary floor.
The host University of Calgary Dinos repeated their result from last year with a bronze medal win in three straight sets over the Spartans earlier in the day. The medal was the Dinos’ 10th in 15 nationals appearances.
“[Bronze medal matches] are hard to play, but you’re always proud of a team that steps up and comes away with a win,” said Dinos head coach Kevin Boyles.
The Spartans failed to come away with a medal for the second straight year. The team has only competed in CIS competition since 2000, but have managed to build a strong program, qualifying for the last two women’s volleyball nationals. In 2006 in Calgary, the team finished fifth.
“[This is] very disappointing, for sure,” said Spartans head coach Ryan Hofer. “You work hard all year, and gold is something we’ve been gunning for.”
Of the top four teams, Trinity Western was the only team not to have a player on the tournament all-star roster. The Pandas led the way with three: Tiffany Dodds, Jocelyn Blair and Darryl Roper. Laval had two: fifth-year two-time CIS player of the year and former tournament MVP Marylene Laplante and Marie-Christine Mondor. The Dinos were represented by two-time CIS MVP Joanna Niemczewska and Julie Young.
The University of Manitoba Bisons, who came in with the third-seed, finished their CIS championships early after losing out in five sets in a consolation match against the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees. The Bisons were upset the week before in the Canada West final only to follow it up with another upset loss in five sets to the Spartans Thur., Mar. 1.
Early Saturday morning, the Université de Montréal Carabins swept the Gee-Gees for fifth-place.