By Randy Lewis
The men’s volleyball team capped off their terrific season in style last weekend, winning a bronze medal at the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union National Championships hosted by the Université de Laval. While the Dinos failed to bring home the championship banner, Head Coach Greg Ryan was still happy with his team’s performance.
"I would have much rather won a gold medal, but I thought that it was still a pretty good result," mused Ryan. "With three new starters and a brand new setter, I thought the guys did a terrific job this season."
To begin the tournament, the fifth-seeded Dinos blew away the University of Toronto Varsity Blues in a relatively easy four-set match to set up a showdown with the powerful Manitoba Bisons, a team that refused to relinquish the number-one spot in the national rankings throughout the season.
While all three sets of the match were extremely close, crucial mistakes that caused the Dinos to struggle throughout the regular season were also their Achilles heel in the semi-final. Key serving errors at the end of sets one and two proved disastrous for the Dinos, as the Bisons took advantage of their opponents’ blunders to close out the match in three straight, relegating the University of Calgary to the bronze medal match.
"I was a little disappointed against Manitoba," said Ryan. "We had problems following the game plan at the end of the set with respect to serving. A couple fewer mistakes and we could have won."
The Dinos didn’t have long to sulk following their semi-final defeat as they were on the court again the following day playing the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. This was a rematch of the Canada West final a week earlier in which the Huskies slaughtered the Dinos in three straight sets. Playing spirited volleyball, the Dinos caught the Huskies feeling down and dejected after their hard-fought semi-final loss to Laval and took full advantage of their opponent’s condition to sweep the match and earn the bronze medal.
Leading the way for the Dinos in the bronze medal match was
middle blocker Jonathan Walsh who had five kills and five blocks. Bill Byma contributed a game-high 14 kills en route to adding a tournament all-star selection to his list of accomplishments throughout his volleyball career at the U of C.
Although the U of S may have folded following a devastating semi-final loss, the Dinos showed more composure putting their loss to Manitoba behind them.
"We turned it around pretty quick," said Ryan. "We (the coaching staff) had no trouble motivating them for the bronze medal."
In the gold medal match on Sunday afternoon, the Manitoba Bisons continued their domination of men’s volleyball this season and captured their second consecutive championship, defeating the home town Laval Rouge et Or 3-1 behind the spectacular play of tournament MVP Mike Munday.
The Dinos have a tough off season ahead of them as four starters played their last match in a Calgary uniform in the bronze-medal game. Walsh, Wes Montgomery, Byma and power hitter Mark Ellingson have used their five years of university eligibility and will move on next year, which opens the door for four new starters next season.
"I’m already looking forward to next season," said Ryan, noting he is planning a recruiting trip to Kelowna to get a look at top prospects for the 2001-2002 Dinos.