Another blown chance at Laval

Like a walk-off between Derek Zoolander and Hansel, last weekend’s women’s volleyball nationals was filled with nothing but upsets.

In the quarter finals, the University of Laval (2) was upset by the University of Winnipeg (7) eliminating any chance at a national title on home court. On the other side of the ladder Sherbrooke (5) upset UBC (4) in straight sets. The only two teams that did live up to expectations in the first round were the University of Alberta (1) who knocked off the University of Dalhousie (8) in three and the University of Calgary (3) who squeaked past the University of Toronto (6) in five.

With a seeding that now seemed to be more in favour than ever before, the U of A played Sherbrooke and the U of C met Winnipeg in the semi-finals. Both games looked to be a walk in the park for the first and third ranked teams in the country, but this was not to be. Just as in the first round, the underdogs came out strong, taking down both powerhouse teams, leaving everyone in disbelief that the final would come down to two of the most unlikely teams. In the final, the University of Winnipeg(7) met the University of Sherbrooke(5). It was Sherbrooke in the end who out worked Winnipeg in four sets

The big difference during the tournament was heart—who wanted this title the most? It was not going to be the talent level of the team alone that would win the championship, it would be the desire of the team who craved it the most. If you wanted to lay bets on talent alone then you would have been torn between the U of C and the U of A. However, if you were to bet on the passion, you would look no further than the eyes and faces of each and every Winnipeg and Sherbrooke player to know who to put your money on.

It was Winnipeg’s never say die attitude that took out the Dinos 3-1 in semis. Though Calgary came back in the third game showing they still had some fight left after being two down, the Wesmen were not ready to leave and all the momentum built up by Calgary was quickly taken away, along with another chance at a national title.

“I think we played a pretty good match,” said Dinos Head Coach Kevin Boyles. “We did not get beaten, we lost. It is generally what you want as a coach.

“I felt we had the opportunities, we were just not hitting the ball hard enough to get the kills and score,” he added. “You can’t win a national title playing safe–you have to rise to the occasion.”

The loss to Winnipeg was not a blow out, but a hard-fought battle between two teams. All games were close (26-24, 25-23, 27-29, 25-17), but the big difference was that the Wesmen got all the bounces and were able to chase down everything that came their way. As for the Dinos, a lucky bounce that might have added a jump to their step never came, leaving them looking defeated even before the match ended.

“I thought I could have done better,” stated Captain Tracy Keats. “I just had an average game, and this is not the time or place to play average. But I wouldn’t say I played bad.”

Keats leaves her team without ever reaching her goal of a national title. “Because of our season, just getting here was a good thing,” she said. “Although I would have loved to have finished my career with a national title.”

The toughest game for any team to play–the bronze medal match against the U of A–saw the Dinos continue to struggle.

“It seemed that our team did not all fire at once but at different times throughout the match,” said Captain Amanda Moppett. “For me, nerves at nationals should equal competitiveness and aggressive play. But we were all inconsistent and shaky, even all our veterans were off their game giving little for our rookies to feed off of.”

It would be hard to look at the bright side of things for a team like Calgary who went in wanting nothing less than to be the best, but there was some success at Laval.

Rookie Janelle Findlay walked away with not only the experience of playing in her first national championship, but was also awarded the CIS Women’s Volleyball Rookie of the Year and named to the CIS All-Canadian Rookie Team. Captain Amanda Moppett was also recognized for her outstanding performance as she was named a CIS First Team All-Star. Moppett was edged out of the Therèse Quigley TSN Award–I guess you just can’t give out too many awards to one team.

The team now has to look to next season for a chance to rebuild, and will hopefully realize that it won’t just be their level of talent that will win them a championship, but the desire and passion to be the best.

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