Dinos force Bisons over the edge

By Daorcey Le Bray

"We absolutely stomped them!"

Breathless with excitement, Amanda Moppett celebrated her team’s second straight win over the second-ranked University of Manitoba Bisons last weekend. The triumph, which culminated in wild applause from the moderately-filled Jack Simpson Gymnasium and much rejoicing on the Dinos’ side of the court, was a key event in illustrating that the Dinos will be a dominant force in this year’s post-season play.

The Bisons entered the Jack on the afternoon of Jan. 12 with a great deal of confidence stemming from a favourable placing on the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union’s leader board–the same board where the Dinos seemed stuck under fifth until recently. The Manitoba women have only played half the matches their Albertan counterparts have enjoyed, and the Bisons are relatively young compared to the Dinos who suffered their growing pains last year.

U of M should have expected a hefty fight as they left the safety of their Great Plains division to compete in the traditionally powerful Canada West alongside such solid teams as the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, the Dinos, and the once-powerful U of A Pandas. Manitoba also didn’t count on the women Dinos proving they are a team to be reckoned with.

"Until you step onto the court against one of the top two teams in the country, and take them, nobody’s going to give you that respect," explained Dinos’ Head Coach Kevin Boyles.

A quick 25-18 beating by the home team, which woke the Bisons rather rudely, began Friday night’s match. It seemed panic was in order as the visitors struggled to just lose the next game 25-23.

Bison’s Head Coach Ken Bentley simply referred to Friday’s game as "a poor effort… I wasn’t happy."

Their inconsistent play and a wealth of errors only served to feed the Dinos’ initial domination of the match.

The only ray of sunshine for the Bisons came in the third set with a 25-22 steal–a win that wouldn’t be repeated. The U of C came back to take the fourth set 25-20 and eventually celebrated a 3-1 game match.

Saturday evening began with the emotionally dry Bisons taking revenge in a 25-23 set that took a slower version of the Dinos by surprise with some powerful net play. Bentley mentioned he felt his team put more effort into their game, while Moppett felt the Dinos got caught in a trap.

"I think we fell into their [style of] play," she said. Despite Calgary’s erratic play during the next two sets, they won (25-19, 25-20, 25-19).

A tense moment came during the third set when the Dinos were down 20-16 at the hands of the Bisons. Fortunately, Boyles revived the team from what he felt was "big trouble." With the addition of back-up setter Amanda Stepenko, the Dinos restored their winning rhythm.

"I credit this match to [Amanda Stepenko]," said Boyles.

Other players also stood out. Middle Tracy Keats seemed to live in the zone on Saturday and always did the right thing at the right time. The ever-powerful Alisa Marriott led the Dinos through the entire weekend–a performance that earned her the CIAU Player of the Week title.

Of course, the whole team was the highlight of the weekend with wins that propelled them to third position in the nation.

Moppett seems to think they deserve it.

"We kicked their butts, right here, centre court!"