Volleysaurs bring Panda-monium to E-town

By Sean Nyilassy

“In the year 2006, the Dinos women’s volleyball team will finally defeat the University of Alberta Pandas for the first time this season.”

This prediction, while broadcasted widely throughout the nooks and crannies of my brain in late 2005, was never publicly announced. But I stand by my word: I can see into the future. The Dinos split a series with the Pandas Jan. 13-14 in Edmonton.

Having lost a pre-season contest and two regular season games to the Pandas while winning all of their other games, the Dinos were out for revenge on the bamboo-chewing sissy bears. However, Friday’s match began with a disheartening blow.

Both teams were not performing to the best of their abilities, with unforced errors and inconsistent game flow dictating the first two sets. The teams were point-for-point towards the end of both sets, but it was the Pandas who hung on for two 25-23 wins.

“We were in there and in control but made too many unforced errors after 20 points,” admitted Dinos Head Coach Kevin Boyles.

The Dinos managed to regroup and fire out a 21-25 third-set victory. They followed this up with a 15-25 missile that would have any team reaching for the eject button. But the Pandas–being as dumb as they are–stuck out the tailspin and wound up leading the deciding fifth set 11-5. This deficit was too much for the Dinos to overcome and the match was lost with a 15-10 set.

Willemina Stikker-Breemhaar led the Dinos in kills and blocks with 11 and eight respectively. Carolyn MacDonald added 10 kills and nine digs. Janelle Findlay stuck it to the Panda with three service aces while setter Natalie Schwartz put in 43 assists. On the defensive side, Neda Boroumand and Julie Young had 18 and 10 digs respectively.

“They’re very tall girls,” summarized MacDonald of the Pandas while failing to identify any superpowers they may or may not have.

On Saturday the Dinos turned things around and finished what they couldn’t the night before. The first set remained close until an 8-2 Dinos’ run made the score 22-15. The Pandas’ comeback attempts were futile and the set went to our ladies, 25-21.

The herbivorous bears came on strong during the second half of the second set and squeezed the Dinos to submission, 20-25. In contrast, the third set was a work of art. The Dinos trailed for much of the game–from a 1-1 tie to an 11-18 deficit. They would not make the mistakes of the previous evening however, clawing back to a 24-21 lead. After a brief stumble, the Dinos sealed a 26-24 deal.

“That’s the first time this season they’ve really dug deep like that,” said Boyles of the ladies’ comeback. “It’s a good sign.”

The fourth set was a similar story. The Dinos followed the Pandas from a 9-9 tie to a 21-24 deficit before going on the attack for the next five points to win 26-24 once again and finally beat the Pandas. What kind of ‘bear’s’ diet consists primarily of bamboo anyway? Not a gnarly kind, that’s for sure. They deserve to be endangered.

“We were determined,” MacDonald said. “Kevin mentioned taking one swing at a time and that helped.”

Schwartz had 44 assists, 12 digs and five kills on the eve. MacDonald and Stikker-Breemhaar had 13 and 10 digs respectively and Lauren Perry had nine kills and 16 digs.

“Overall, the weekend was a good success,” Schwartz claimed, adding that the Pandas are a good opponent because they “bring a different game.”

The Dinos take a week off to think deeply about the election before heading west to take on the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds Jan. 28-29.