It’s go time!

It’s the greatest indoor show on campus. It’s time for the wheat to be separated from the chaff. It’s time for the pretenders to fall back and the champions to step up. It’s the Husky Dino Cup.

National television, 2,500 screaming fans and dozens of the best young volleyball players on the continent take over the Jack Simpson Gymnasium Oct. 23-25 for one of this country’s most prestigious tournaments. In its 17th year, the Dino Cup kicks off the Dinos men’s volleyball campaign in style, pitting our volleysaurs against some of the best competition in North America.

The best part? It’s free for you, the University of Calgary student.

This year’s event boasts a quartet of teams, two Canadian schools along with a pair from south of the border. The defending champs from Stanford University will be conspicuous by their absence, but the level of competition will be fierce nonetheless.

"You never want to see the same style of team every time," says Dinos Head Coach Greg Ryan of the benefits of an international tournament like Dino Cup. "Both American teams are quite a bit different from the Canadian style and a little different from each other. They’re both big and aggressive. They’re really exciting to watch."

University of Calgary Dinos

The Dinos enter the tournament and the season ranked fourth in the nation, one of the higher spots they’ve occupied in recent memory. Most impressive is the fact that they sit there without any legitimate star power, but rather a well-developed team concept.

"This team is the most unique of the teams I’ve been a part of as a Dino," muses co-captain Steve Brand. "We don’t really have a go-to guy, we’re a group that pours everything into each other, that depends on each other."

Coach Ryan agrees.

"I think it’s a much more unified team because of the character of the people involved," Ryan explains. "It’s not just that they all have to contribute, it’s that they’re that kind of people, they embrace the team concept."

Both Ryan and Dinos middle Sean Kendall have been operating at a high level for a while, coming off a successful outing at the 2003 Summer Universiade in Daegu, South Korea. They’re hoping to take the experience of top-level competition and translate it into success at home over the weekend.

"We’re ready to rip," smiles third-year setter and co-captain Glen Handley. "We’re looking forward to the competition and the experience. How many teams can say they open at home against UCLA?"

Trinity Western University Spartans

Trinity is coming off an impressive showing at the West Coast Tournament, where they downed the University of Southern California Trojans in straight sets and took the defending NCAA champs, the Lewis University Flyers, to five sets before losing 15-13.

The Spartans are currently one spot ahead of the Dinos, ranked third in the country heading into the tournament, and feel they have something to prove over the weekend.

University of California, Los Angeles Bruins

The Bruins are three-time Dino Cup champs (1992, 1997 and 2001) and five-time silver medallists in their eight trips across the border. On this, their ninth journey to Calgary, they hope to keep their streak of finals appearances alive. Eighteen-time NCAA volleyball champions, UCLA is one of the most revered and storied programs in the United States.

The Bruins are a legitimate threat to take the Dino Cup crown, boasting a three-pronged attack consisting of 2001 Dino Cup MVP Jonathan Acosta, 2001 Dino Cup All-Star Carlos Pena and superb senior libero Adam Shrader.

University of Pacific Tigers

The Tigers also boast a potent triple threat and should prove at least as challenging as the Bruins. A pair of all stars from last year’s Dino Cup return, as middle Sean Rodgers and Latvian outside hitter Nils Dauburs are expected to continue their impressive play. Another man to watch on the UOP roster is libero Mike Gawlik who set a school record last season with 299 digs in 32 matches.

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