Three titles in a row? Damn right!

By Kris Kotarski

I wonder what it’s like to play against the Dinos women’s volleyball team. When the opposition lines up and looks across the floor, are they scared? Does it hurt when one of Krista Kinsman’s bullets hits them right in the head? What’s the point of playing the Dinos at all? They usually beat you, always outclass you and they have fun doing it.

Last weekend, it was the University of British Columbia Thunder-birds who had the honour of playing the Dinos. The result? They lost. They dropped two straight games, lost their shot at the Conference Championship and lost any hope for a good seed at the National Championships in Winnipeg next weekend. All there was left for the T-birds to do on Friday night was console themselves while their Calgary counterparts celebrated their first Canada West title since 1994.

"I wanted to beat this team a lot," said Calgary middle Jill Friend, who transferred from UBC for this season. "I’m extremely happy; the decision to transfer was good all around."

Friend proved to be an important piece of the puzzle for the Dinos, who came a long way from the team that didn’t even see the post-season last year. She had some key blocks in the third set of Friday’s match, and teamed up with backup setter Amanda Stepenko to give the Dinos the momentum they needed to claim the match in the fourth set. For the U of C, it was the end of a long journey from mediocrity to greatness.

"We wanted to earn everyone’s respect," said Friend.

"This whole season has been great," added Head Coach Kevin Boyles.

The Dinos now head to Nationals where their conference title and third ranking in the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union poll give them the second seed. But as far as the team knows, it doesn’t matter who they’ll play in Winnipeg, as long as it’s
not teams from the Canada West again.

"We look forward to playing teams who haven’t seen us," said Boyles.

"Sherbrooke and Laval especially," added Friend.

"We get sick of playing CanWest teams and beating them all the time," continued Amanda Moppett, the star of Friday’s game.

The Dinos will meet the University of Toronto in the first round of the tournament with a possible Calgary vs. Sherbrooke match-up in the semifinals. The top-ranked Université de Laval is expected to make the finals on the other side of the bracket and an intriguing match-up could ensue if the Dinos make the final as well.

"We’re an extremely offensive team," said Moppett when asked to weigh the strengths of this year’s Dinos.

"We play a different style than most teams," added Boyles. "If you dominate the net, you win. The teams from Quebec tend to play good defence."

The Dinos sport an offensive arsenal seldom seen in CIAU volleyball. CIAU Player of the Year Alisa Marriott leads the way while Moppett and Kinsman, both Second Team All Stars, complete an impressive package of power hitters. Tracy Keats and Friend, both six-feet-two-inches tall, provide solid blocking in the middle and are capable offensive players as well.

But the Dinos’ best weapon at Nationals may be their confidence.

"Will you win?" they were asked.

"You betcha," came the quick response from Friend.

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