The University of Calgary Dinos men's volleyball team ventured west and earned a split with the Trinity Western University Spartans in Canada West Conference action last weekend.
As has been the case for most of the season, the Dinos relied on individual talent to get them through a difficult match instead of playing as a team.
Trinity Western is too good to take for granted and the Dinos lost 3-2 Friday night. The Dinos, as a team, seemed to take that personally because they turned the lights out on the Spartans on Saturday, winning all five sets. They showed they can play brilliantly when they put their minds to it.
"We underestimated our opponent and we overestimated our capacity," said Dinos coach Greg Ryan. "But it is a difficult gym to play in, even smaller than Saskatchewan's gym."
Trinity Western is no pushover. They recently won the York University tournament, indicating just how strong the Canada West conference is. When the last place team in Canada West can beat all those Eastern schools, imagine what will happen at the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union tournament when the top teams will be there?
Despite the first-night loss Ryan feels that all the pieces are coming together for the Dinos. He made a key roster move after Christmas to solidify their line-up. Graham Gent, who last played for the Dinos two seasons ago has joined the team as the libero. Gent, who is known as an excellent passer, has taken over as one of the main serve receivers on the team, giving setter Jeremy Wilcox a better opportunity to run the potent offense. He will strengthen an already good back court with his defensive play. Ryan spoke about some other key performers.
"Denis Zhukov played well this weekend. He is now more comfortable with his surroundings after getting used to things for the first semester. Jeremy played well this weekend too," said Ryan.
With the addition of Gent, the Dinos appear to have moved to the head of the class in Canada West. Their schedule also benefits them. They play the universities of Winnipeg and Saskatchewan at home with easier matches on the road to conclude the season. Ryan feels that his team is ready to battle for the conference championship.
"I think the players were bit pretty hard by losing to Trinity Western. They are ready to come to practice. There were players who thought they could just show up for matches who now realize they have to come prepared to play," said Ryan.
He has said that all year and finally, the players are getting the message. The Dinos are probably the most experienced team in the conference now with the lineup on the floor being made up with fourth-and fifth-year players. That should be enough to get them to the conference championship, shouldn't it? Let's see who comes to play.