By Randy Lewis
If the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds thought they could waltz into the Jack and intimidate the Dinos with their bright-yellow banana-like warmup outfits and their retro ’80s short shorts, they were sorely mistaken. The Dinos picked them apart, peeled them and devoured them, sweeping last weekend’s two-match series. They improved their regular season record to 15-5, good enough for a share of the Canada West conference lead.
According to Head Coach Greg Ryan, Calgary played "their best volleyball in three weeks." They took the first two sets of Friday night’s match, and following what seems to be their all-too-common mid-match swoon, they won the game in the fourth set 25-19. Leading the way for the Dinos was the dynamic duo of Bill Byma and Denis Zhukov, who finished the evening with 15 and 9 kills respectively.
UBC Head Coach Dale Ohman had high praise for the Calgary stars.
"Byma and Zhukov are probably one of the best duos in the league," he remarked after Friday’s match. "They’re big guys who stepped and won the match for them."
For Saturday night’s match, seldom-used libero Cory Paddock was inserted into the lineup–and he responded with a solid defensive outing. He led the team with 10 digs, as the Dinos steamrolled the T-birds in a 3-0 victory. Wes Montgomery continued his stellar play, contributing nine kills in an evening where the Dinos completely dominated the T-birds in all aspects of the game.
The two wins vault the Dinos into a first-place tie with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, one game up on the University of Alberta Golden Bears. This sets up a fantastic final week of regular season volleyball as the Huskies travel to Winnipeg to play the number-one ranked team in the country, the Manitoba Bisons. The Dinos host their provincial rivals from Edmonton in a series that will decide first place in the Canada West conference and determine that all-important bye into the conference final.
Dinos setter Lee Czernick is looking forward to this weekend’s match-up with their archenemies from the North.
"It’s just like hockey, the Battle of Alberta," he enthused. "It’s always really fun playing against them.
"One of our team goals before the season was to clinch the Canada West championship and get a bye to the final. Right now, we’re a little beat up and that extra week [off] would be great."
The weekend promises some intense volleyball and the action gets going at 8:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday when the Golden Bears visit the Jack Simpson Gymnasium.