Like Andre Agassi playing tennis against a Care Bear, the Dinos women's volleyball team have proven they still have what it takes at a tournament in Regina Sept. 23-25. Not only were they the eventual winners, but the girls also went undefeated, losing only four sets in five matches.
This would be no feat for last year's team, but considering they played with nine players and a number of changes have been made to the lineup, there is a lot to grin about.
"Even with two players fresh out of high school and two new players, we weren't noticeably weaker," smiled Head Coach Kevin Boyles. "When all 15 of your players expect to start every game and are majorly disappointed when they don't, you know you've got a team."
The first suckers to be lined up before the firing squad were the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Friday afternoon. The Dinos didn't waste any time warming up, putting the dogs down 25-15, 25-13, 25-19.
This pace continued into their second game Friday evening as the Dinos took the first set against the hometown University of Regina Cougars 25-19. Whether it was the support of their fans or the nerve gas they secreted from the gym floor to slow the Dinos down shall remain a mystery, but the Cougars played the second set with ferocity, winning 18-25.
Although the Cougars didn't let up during the following sets, the Dinos had an opportunity to see what they really are: winners. They won the third and fourth hard-fought sets 26-24 and 29-27 respectively.
While the Dinos jumped through the Cougars' hoops, the University of Manitoba Bisons were carefully planning some traps of their own for the Dinos. The teams met Saturday afternoon in a match that challenged them both.
The Dinos took the first set 25-22, forcing the Bisons to fight from behind. And fight they did, winning set two 21-25 and battling point-for-point with the Dinos towards the end of the third. Our ladies finally managed to gain the two-point lead necessary at 33-31.
Following this grueling standoff, the Bisons pulled off a 25-20 fourth set win, forcing the tie-breaker. Fortunately, the Dinos know where they belong, and sent the Bisons to their doom, 15-12.
Saturday evening, our ladies put the University of Winnipeg Wesmen to shame without breaking too much of a sweat. They won the first three sets 25-21, 25-19, 26-24.
But the path to gold was not an escalator; there were a few more stairs to climb before the throne was theirs. Sunday's gold medal game pitted the Dinos against the University of Alberta Pandas--who won 3-0 over the Brandon University Bobcats, U of W and U of M, dropping just one game to the Simon Fraser University Clan.
The teams looked fairly evenly stacked to begin with. The Dinos won the first set 25-19, dropping the second 18-25. This loss wasn't going to burst the Dinos' bubble though; they coolly won the following two sets 25-22, 25-21 for the gold medal.
"I was most pleasantly surprised by the play of the high school girls," Boyles said of what he observed during this first pre-season tournament.
Holly Harper was the Dinos' greatest offensive force, leading the tournament in kills by a comfortable margin. Lauren Perry also put on an offensive show as entertaining as a motorcycle-riding elephant. Neda Boroumand and Natalie Schwartz were named to the tournament all-star team to nobody's surprise.
"In any game, Nat will be the best on the floor of both teams," Boyles said without a hint of doubt.
Next in the Dinos' pre-season is a U of S tournament Oct. 7-9.
Looking down the road, Boyles sees the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds as a major contender for the national championship at the University of Calgary in March. But he believes if his team can get, and stay, healthy--and adjust to the line changes as Willemina Stikker-Breemhaar and Jo Niemczewska are added back onto the roster in November and after Christmas respectively--they will have an excellent shot at winning the title at home.