Larissa Vicente Ferreira; Dinos Communications
CALGARY – After dropping the opening set 25-16, the No. 2-ranked University of Calgary Dinos found their groove to take a four-set win (16-25, 26-24, 25-21, 25-18) over the UBC Thunderbirds Friday night in the Jack Simpson Gym.
The Dinos lead the best-of-three Canada West semifinal 1-0, with Game 2 set for Saturday night at 6 p.m. Game 3, if necessary, goes at noon Sunday, with the winner of the series advancing to next week's conference championship match.
Calgary came out with a slow start in the first set and had to adjust quickly to UBC's offensive tactics. The Thunderbirds were hitting around the Dinos' block and reached a .393 hitting percentage while the Dinos achieved just .190, and it was a comfortable 25-16 win for UBC.
The Dinos battled back to take the second set 26-24, despite trailing 24-22 at one point, to even the match at 1-1, and the tide slowly began to turn toward the home side.
"We started to pass better, and our communication and confidence got better," said Dinos Head Coach Natalie Gurnsey. "We started to serve way better, which helped a lot, and obviously we were able to generate more offence and get them out of system which led to our blocking success.
"It's playoffs, so nerves are a factor, and maybe we're trying to compensate for our lineup changes. I don't think it's the lineup, I just think it's people knowing their roles and expectations and going and executing."
The Dinos continued to improve, holding Kiera Van Ryk and the rest of the UBC offence at arm's length to take the third 25-21 and the fourth 25-18 to close out the match.
Van Ryk did it all for the Thunderbirds, adding five aces to her 19 kills for a total of 24 points. Ciara Hanly and Brynn Pasin added seven kills apiece, with Jayde Robertsen, Victoria Behie, and Tessa Davis each adding six.
For the Dinos, Hannah Tanasichuk led the way with 12 kills while Adriel Goodman added 10 along with six blocks. Beth Vinnell had an eight-kill, eight-block night as the Dinos won the stuff category by a 13-9 margin over the Thunderbirds, while Leah Shevkenek picked up three kills while dishing out 32 assists, an ace, and three blocks.
"It was definitely a good win for us, and we are feeling really good," said Calgary's middle Autumn Davidson, who picked up a pair of aces Friday to go with three kills on four swings. "We worked out the kinks after a few injuries in our lineup, and [UBC] looked different from when we last played them. It seemed like a completely different match for us."
Both teams have already solidified their spots at the U SPORTS women's volleyball championship March 15-17, where they'll be joined by host Alberta and Trinity Western as the western foursome.
"We get to take a deep breath," said Gurnsey of the mindset heading into Saturday. "The pressure is on them, and we should be able to come out and play free, composed, and confident. When we play like that, we're successful in our outcome."
CanadaWest.tv will have live coverage of Game 2 starting Saturday night at 6 p.m. MT.
Photo by David Moll