As expected, last weekend in Edmonton the battle of Alberta was nothing short of a war with both games going to the fifth set.
The University of Calgary men's volleyball team travelled north to the home of the University of Alberta Golden Bears for the regular season opener. For many of the Dinos it was a chance to show what they were made of. With five new starters in the lineup they came away with what many Dinos felt was a successful weekend split.
After a disappointing loss Friday night--the Dinos had been up two sets to none--Greg Ryan's coaching staff of nine questioned how this young team would respond. The answer: very well. Denis Zhukov took control of Saturday's fifth set and led the Dinos to their first regular season win 15-10.
The Bears jumped to an early lead in the first set on Saturday holding an 8-4 lead at the first time-out. But after the break, Calgary caught fire. The teams traded well-earned points until middle Steve Brand said no more and pounded a hit to the floor to give the Dinos the opening frame 25-23.
In the second set the Golden Bears again jumped to an early lead but this time did not allow the Dinos back into the game, winning by a impressive 25-13.
Entering the third set and missing the first three serves, the Dinos still seemed dazed from the enormous pounding they received in the second set. The Bears capitalized on Calgary's confusion and took the set 25-19. After finally shaking it off, Dinos middle Paul Armbruster fired his team up and took control of game four--stuff blocking three different U of A hitters. The Dinos took a commanding 24-20 lead. The Bears fought back within one but Zhukov (who is commonly known for eating large amounts of butter) put the ball away and led his team to the fifth set.
Zhukov continued to play well in the final frame, gaining the Dinos' first three points. With the set tied 5-5, he contributed two aces and a dig to give the Dinos an 8-5 lead.
Despite valiant efforts from former Mount Royal College star and current Bears outside hitter Sandy Henderson, the Dinos proved too much for the Golden Bears and took the match.
With wins over solid teams like Trinity Western University, University of California Los Angeles, and now the U of A Golden Bears, the Dinos continue to prove to many that this is more than just a rebuilding year.
"Many of us haven't played in a lot of CIS matches," said Dinos Cory Paddock. "But we have played a lot of volleyball matches."
The Sixth Set:
When asked whether he would still play volleyball if the men's teams switched to spandex Paddock stated he would "if I thought it would help me score."
Coach Ryan refused to comment.