Ben Matchett; Dinos Communications
CALGARY – Playing their best volleyball of the season, the University of Calgary Dinos wrapped up a weekend sweep of the University of Winnipeg Wesmen with another straight-sets win Saturday night in the Jack Simpson Gym (25-21, 25-22, 25-22).
The win vaults the Dinos back to .500 on the season at 7-7 with just eight matches to play, putting them in a sixth-place tie with Saskatchewan. Winnipeg, which came into the weekend tied with the Dinos for the final playoff spot, takes a step back and drops to 5-9.
All six sets over the weekend were decided by four points or less, and it was Calgary's defensive play that proved to be the difference Saturday. The Dinos out-dug the Wesmen by a 34-27 margin and, despite trailing Winnipeg by one in total blocks, managed to pick up stuffs at opportune moments to emerge from the weekend with a four-match win streak.
"I thought we played good defence," said Dinos Head Coach Rod Durrant. "We talked about that in our game plan, needing to be solid and disciplined blocking and good on the defensive end. We were able to transition one or two points per set because of that."
"I'm really proud of the way we battled. Winnipeg is a good team, and for us to come out with two wins we're very satisfied. That's the best volleyball we've played this year."
Fifth-year Calgary setter Blain Cranston wrapped up a great weekend with a momentum-changing solo block in each of the first two sets. In the first, it was a solo stuff of Adrian Dyck that set up set point. Midway through the middle frame, Cranston again went up and denied Dyck when the Dinos had given up a run and were trailing 15-9. That block sparked a 10-1 run for Calgary, putting them in a solid position heading into the late stages of the set.
"It was pretty much a playoff game, and to come in and execute the way that we did, it's pretty hard to describe," said the fifth-year setter from Fort St. John, B.C. "It was a fun game – blocking has always been something I've been striving to improve on, and today that's probably what our biggest focus was, so to come out and execute the way I did, I'm stoked."
"Blain has been a tremendous leader for us and has had a lot of impact," said Durrant. "This weekend, he showed that he's one of our captains and we're very pleased with where he's at right now. He's a quality individual."
Dyck saw plenty of volume for Winnipeg with 38 sets sent his way. He picked up 16 kills but also committed nine errors, adding six of Winnipeg's 10 service errors on the night. Daniel Thiessen added 10 kills for the Wesmen, with Ethan Duncan adding seven.
Tim Taylor once again paced the Calgary offence with 14 kills, while Australian countryman Hamish Hazelden followed up with nine and Mitchell Higgin chipped in with seven out of the middle. Cranston's final stat line read four kills, 29 assists, four blocks, and six digs.
Winnipeg will take a break next weekend before a home-and-home series with the Brandon Bobcats, while the Dinos will remain home to take on the Alberta Golden Bears Jan. 18-19 in the Jack Simpson Gym.
Photo by David Moll