By Carly McKay
Practice was a quiet affair Mon., Jan. 17, for the Dinos men’s volleyball team. With a roster decimated by the flu and worse yet, the injury bug, getting back to work following a split with the University of Manitoba Bisons Jan. 14-15 was business as usual for the road-weary team. After a grueling road trip over the holiday break, Head Coach Greg Ryan believes his squad rallied in the second match against the Bisons because of the lessons learned over the previous few weeks.
“Having four starters out with the flu is pretty huge,” he said. “But [being able to persevere] gives us a good idea where we are as a team.”
Friday night’s match was a challenge for the Dinos–Manitoba came out swinging early on. The Bisons controlled the play throughout the opening set and quickly took a 25-20 decision. The second set was almost entirely the opposite. The Dinos started off with the lead and although Manitoba battled back and forced a come-from-behind effort, Calgary came out on top 25-22.
The third is where the Dinos’ fatigue really started to show, as they lost 25-10. The fourth also went to the Bisons, despite being the most fiercely contested set of the evening. Neither team gained more than two points over the other until the 14 point mark. Manitoba then powered through with strong blocking and serving to secure a 25-17 victory.
On a bright note, Dinos captain Rob Ellis made his return to the lineup from a hand injury with two impressive service aces and three digs. Also notable were Eric von Engelbrechten’s 18 kills and five digs, the team’s best in both departments.
“We came out a bit flat and didn’t execute,” explained setter Glen Handley. “But the second match, we came in with a ‘must-win’ approach.”
That change in attitude proved to be the key as the Dinos rallied for a thrilling victory on Saturday. The first set went easily to the visiting Dinos 25-18 and after playing catch-up for the majority of the second, a clever time-out at 20-16 set the stage for Calgary to steal the win 25-23.
While the third and fourth were all Bisons, 25-12 and 25-17, the Dinos dug deep to take the match in the fifth set. With Manitoba up 13-12, another time-out provided a chance for the team to check their nerves, resulting in two quick points and the win.
The Calgary offense was back on form for the match, with Sean Kendal scoring 15 kills and four stuff blocks and Brian Nelis contributing 11 kills.
After battling illness, injury and a brutal travel schedule, the Dinos finally play at home Jan. 21-22 against the Trinity Western University Spartans. As Handley notes, the guys are looking forward to being back.
“I’m just happy to sleep in my own bed and be able to buy groceries.”
Games begin at 6 p.m. in the Jack Simpson Gymnasium. Come cheer on the Dinos as they attempt to turn their 4-8 season around. The men’s games will be followed by the national champion Dinos women’s games.