Lance Doucet, Dinos Communications
CALGARY – Making their first appearance at the Jack Simpson Gym since November, the road weary University of Calgary Dinos held off the Winnipeg Wesmen for a straight-sets win (25-21, 25-23, 25-22) on Friday night.
The return home could not have come at a better time for the Dinos as they matched up in a weekend set with major playoff implications. Both Calgary and Winnipeg held 5-7 records and the final two playoff spots in Canada West coming into Friday's game.
Despite three close set scores, three was all the Dinos (6-7) needed as they moved into seventh place, ahead of the Wesmen (5-8).
"It is hard to put into words," explained fifth-year setter Blain Cranston when asked about the significance of the games against the Wesmen. "To come out and get this first win and play really well was huge. We have really been climbing in the last six games [including non-conference]. We executed like a playoff game."
Living up to the hype of two evenly matched teams, not much separated the Dinos and Wesmen in the opening set. No lead exceed two points until late in the first when the Dinos pushed ahead with a 24-21 advantage. Calgary picked up their final three points off attack errors by the Wesmen as they came away with a four-point win.
The Wesmen were tagged with eight miscues on offence during the first set but responded the rest of the way hitting above .300.
"They are a really strong team and have always been hard to play against during my career. They challenge you as a team and make you play good volleyball," noted Cranston.
After Calgary grabbed a small lead in the early portion of the second set, the Wesmen responded with a strong stretch of play, most notably a 5-1 run to make it 13-10. Winnipeg held onto that lead for most of the set until a timely break called by Dinos head coach Rod Durrant seemed to settle his group.
Right after the timeout, Winnipeg gave up the ball on a service error, sending Blain Cranston to the service line with his team trailing 23-21. The senior picked up a pair of assists as the Dinos went on a run, coming from behind to win the set 25-23.
"We went out and played with confidence," said the Fort St. John, BC native. "We just put the ball where we needed it to be and trusted our block defence."
Calgary carried momentum into the third set where they quickly took a three-point edge on Winnipeg. Despite a stretch where the Wesmen scored five of six points mid-way through the set, the Dinos continued to push and built their lead to as large as eight. Liam Laidlaw would close out the match with a booming kill up the middle to take the third set 25-22.
The Dinos' offence was spread out with Tim Taylor registering 11 kills, followed by Mitchell Higgin and Hamish Hazelden with nine and eight respectively. Daniel Thiessen countered with a game-high 16 kills for the Wesmen.
These two teams will battle once more at the Jack Simpson Gym with action getting started at 5:30 p.m.