Volleysaurs take the good with the bad

One would not expect the 1-9 University of Saskatchewan Huskies to pose any threat to the 8-2 Dinos women’s volleyball team. But then again, one would also not expect Rob Schnieder to make another Deuce Bigelow movie.

In the spirit of Rob’s fantastic acting prowess, our ladies came out a little weak Jan. 7-8 against the Huskie ladies. Saturday’s first set saw our ladies fall behind early, regroup with a six-point run to lead 16-12 at the second technical break and secure the win 25-20.

The second set began the same way, but there was no six-point run in sight. The Huskies managed an 11-19 lead before the Dinos finally woke up and clawed back to 18-19. They unfortunately couldn’t keep this pace and lost 21-25.

“On Saturday we had more trouble overall,” said Dino Willemina Stikker-Breemhaar. “We gave them too much confidence.”

The following two sets weren’t pretty. Both sets could have gone either way and the game could have gone to the bottom-feeding Huskie women. On the other hand, Deuce Bigelow European Gigolo could have been the highest grossing movie of all time. Fortunately there is some balance in the world and neither of these possibilities became a reality. The Dinos won the next two sets 26-24 and 28-26 and Deuce’s sequel grossed just a third of the $66 million the first one saw.

Stikker-Breemhaar led the game in kills with 14. Carolyn MacDonald had 13 each of kills and digs while Janelle Findlay added 10 kills and 17 digs. Neda Boroumand was a strong defensive force, with 14 digs. But it was Natalie Schwartz who stole the show. She recorded six kills, 12 digs and a formidable 49 assists.

“We were playing significantly better on the second afternoon,” admitted Head Coach Kevin Boyles. “No one was happy with Saturday. We played flat.”

It’s true, Sunday’s game was less twilight-zone-esque than Saturday’s. The Dinos played more like we’ve come to expect. The first set was over quickly with a 25-14 Dinos win. The second set was much more intense. The teams traded the lead, not just to the standard 25-point mark, but remained close enough to stretch the game to over 30 points. A Huskie kill that went astray finally gave the Dinos the win, 31-28.

The Dinos led for much of the third set, but a 7-3 Huskie ladies run gave them a 19-20 advantage. The Dinos didn’t give up however, securing the set 25-22 and thus the game. Offensive and defensive stats were spread out very evenly among the Dinos.

“We played more as a team,” MacDonald confirmed. “It was a great effort by everyone.”

With the two wins under their belts, our ladies head north to Edmonton Jan. 13-14 to try again against the University of Alberta Pandas–the team that handed them both regular season losses and a pre-season loss. Are the Dinos ready for the Pandas?

“I hope they’re ready for us,” said a confident MacDonald. “This is what we play volleyball for.”

Bench Report

Sports teams are like jigsaw puzzles. When the pieces are all in the proper places, it’s a work of art, but one missing piece can be a wrench in the gears. The Dinos women’s volleyball team was short two pieces to their puzzle during the first semester and will remain one short for the duration of their season.

While Willemina Stikker-Breemhaar is now eligible to play and is finding her space in the puzzle, Joanna Niemczewska will not play with the team at all this season. The ladies did an excellent job first semester without these two key players. But as other teams find their groove, the Dinos will have to step up another level or two.

“Her absence forces everyone to be better,” Head Coach Kevin Boyles explained. “No one person tries to take the whole load.”

Niemczewska went under the knife in September 2005 to repair some meniscus in her right knee that was damaged during the summer. The recovery period has been longer than expected and after joining the team for practice over holidays, it was evident that Niemczewska would not be able to compete this season.

“It’s just reality,” Boyles admitted. “She’s not healthy enough to play.”

This would be Niemczewska’s final year of eligibility, but having seen no court time, she should be able to gain an extra year through an appeal process currently underway. In the four years she competed as a Dino, Niemczewska has become a decorated athlete. For two years running she has been named University of Calgary Female Athlete of the Year, Canadian Interuniversity Sport Women’s Volleyball Player of the Year, a CIS First-Team All-Canadian and a Canada West First-Team All-Star. She was also named CIS Female Athlete of the Year in 2004. Wow!

The staff and athletes on the Dinos look forward to her return in Fall 2006 and can’t wait to have her at 100 per cent again.

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