Sunday March 6th, 2011
Langley Events Centre
Langley, British Columbia
Sunday marked the final day of competition in University volleyball across Canada. The women were duking it out in Laval. However, the highest honour of volleyball in Canada would be decided in Langley, as the CIS men's competition really set itself apart. The afternoon held the Consolation Finals between McMaster and Alberta, as well as the Bronze Medal Match between Laval and Calgary. The finals already guaranteed a Canada West Champion, as Trinity Western and Brandon would decide later. However, there was still business to take care of as the RSEQ and OUA attempted to put a dent in Canada West's armor.
McMaster Marauders vs. Alberta Golden Bears
The consolation bracket ends with one team being named the fifth best in all of Canadian University volleyball. To crack the top five is an incredible accomplishment that should not be diminished simply because there is no medal associated with it. McMaster, representing the OUA, could justify the high rankings of multiple Ontario teams throughout the regular season with a win. The Alberta Golden Bears lost a tough five set match against host Trinity Western in the first round, and simply couldn't accept a loss from any team outside of Canada West.
The first two sets looked very similar. The Alberta Golden Bears could rely heavily on offside player 2 Spencer Leiske. In a pinch, his overpowering attacks always provided an escape plan. Contributions from Alberta power player 8 Jay Olmstead stretched out the McMaster block by using both sides of the net. The first set was tight, but the Golden Bears pushed when it was needed. Alberta narrowly won the first set 25-22.
The second set was lead by McMaster deep into the teens. 12 Tyler Santoni's constant focus and hard play put him in a class amongst the best middles nationwide. However, the Golden Bears again found success going to Leiske when the Marauders led. He slammed an attack through the Marauders block to narrow the gap to one. Then, fed once again, he smartly tipped over the McMaster block to tied the game. After a Golden Bears missed serve, they returned to the Leiske game plan as he attacks another ball off McMasters' block.
The efforts from Alberta kept them in the set, but McMaster refused to give over the lead. They led 22-19 when Leiske pummelled another attack through the block. McMaster's 10 Kevin Stevens put his next attack wide, and a poor serve receive turned into an easy Alberta point on the overpass. All of a sudden, the set was tied at 22-22. Desperate for a point, McMaster went to 18 Tyson Alexander for a quick. The attack was blocked, but the Marauders managed a tough dig. They went to Stevens next, who was again blocked. There was no hope for a dig on this occassion, and Alberta finally took the lead after trailing the majority of the set.
Then the Marauders did it to themselves. Their setter was called for breaking to early towards the net, and McMaster was called out of position to give Alberta a set point. Golden Bears' 13 Mitch Irvine made no mistake, and Alberta's opportune 6-1 run gave them the second set 25-22.
The third set was a display of neck-and-neck competition. The two squads were tied on at least eight separate occassions through the set. Santoni stepped up his game, blocking three separate attacks on one single play until the third finally ended the point. Shortly after, he stuffed two more attempts on one sequence to give McMaster a 20-19 lead. Santoni also provided some offence, putting away a quick barely through the block for a 22-20 Marauders lead. Down the stretch, Kevin Stevens put away a hard attack, and 3 Shayne Petrusma clinched the set with an ace for a 25-22 Marauders victory to force a fourth set.
In the fourth set, the Golden Bears remembered their winning strategy. Spencer Leiske started off the set with two blocks as a warm up. A devestating kill from the right side let his setter know he was heating up. He moved into the backcourt and continued his assault with another hard kill to put Alberta ahead 9-6 early. Jay Olmstead continued to stretch the Marauders block by continually winning points off the block and out. His contribution really allowed Leiske to be as effective as he was.
Some great serving from Alberta setter 4 Tanner Nault put the Golden Bears in great position. Two errors from McMaster's Petrusma on tough sets had Alberta ahead 15-8. Seven points is a significant deficit to attempt to overcome, especially against one of the nations best. Alberta refused to relent down the stretch, and Leiske put an attack through the Marauders block to force match point. Truly, Leiske was unstoppably efficient throughout the tournament. Golden Bears' Justin Merta finished the game in style, pounding a hard quick through the block for a 25-18 decisive Alberta victory.
Bronze Medal Match
Laval Rouge et Or vs. Calgary Dinos
Throughout the regular season, the Laval Rouge et Or were ranked the number one team in the CIS. After a victory last weekend at the Canada West Final Four, the Calgary Dinos became that number one seed. However, the two highest ranked teams at the CIS National Championships found themselves in a battle for bronze after tough defeats last night. Laval represented the final chance for a team outside Canada West to take a match from their westerly rivals. Their preparation seemed focused. The Calgary Dinos mostly kicked a volleyball around in a circle in a version of a playground game.
In the first set, that tone reflected the gameplay. Laval's 4 Karl De Grandpre continued his solid play at Nationals to put the RSEQ team ahead early. Though calm pre-game, Calgary did bring intensity to their defence. One scrambling effort sent a Dino player into the stands, as he sprinted inches to the left of a standing toddler. The toddler, of course, failed to notice his life hung in the balance for a moment. Luckily, it was spared.
De Grandpre passed over the baton to teammate 5 Frederic Mondou late in the set. Mondou hit hard around the block for a point and a 19-13 lead. Next, a hard serve forced an overpass into Mondou's awaiting block. Mondou again factored in after a long rally led to a hard backcourt attack for the hot Rouge et Or attacker. A Calgary missed serve finished the set in deflating fashion with Laval winning 25-20.
Mondou stayed hot early in the second set. First he took a bump set from 1 Frederic Desbiens, which nobody blocked expecting a free ball. Mondou then put down a kill on a more traditional set. The Dinos countered with middle player 18 David Egan. An Egan ace, plus a monster quick kept Calgary from falling behind. The middle of the set featured a handful of missed serves from both teams, stunting most of the momentum being built early.
When the teams cleaned up their acts, Laval had pulled ahead to a slight 19-17 lead. Calgary's big-name player, CIS MVP 6 Graham Vigrass, had been far too quiet throughout the first two frames. He came into the limelight when he was called for two touches attempting to set after his setter made a dig on the first touch. However, he redeemed himself on the next play with a hard quick. One play later, his setter was again forced into digging with the Dinos' first touch. Vigrass once again stepped in, but this time provided a perfect set for a Calgary kill. Suddenly warmed up, Vigrass put up a huge solo block on the following play to tie the set at 20-20.
Suddenly concerned with Mr. Vigrass, the Laval block completely left the right side open for an emphatic kill. From there, Calgary caught the breaks. A slightly missed attack landed for a point. A backcourt attack barely caught a piece of the Rouge et Or block for a point. With their first set point, Calgary put together a huge double block to win the second set 25-22.
In the third set, Laval took an early lead and maintained that lead for a huge portion of the set. A brief stutter, and an Egan block against Laval's De Grandpre almost tied the game at 11-10 for the Rouge et Or. However, that's when the team from Quebec began to push. The attack came from every direction, as Laval put together a 10-4 run using a balanced offence. The deficit became insurmountable for the Dinos, as Laval finished the third set 25-19 on a quick from 6 Micael Girard.
Calgary, who had been laid back until now, decided that the act was up. They stormed ahead 6-1 immediately, and soon extended that lead to 12-6. The Dinos looked to be in control, but a missed serve followed by two aces from Girard brought the set back into limbo. After chipping away slowly, an intimidating kill from De Grandpre put Laval down by a single point at 21-20. The Dinos' Egan then whiffed entirely on a quick attempt, tying the game for the first time.
Egan quickly redeemed himself with a kill on the next point, and a quick from Vigrass gave Calgary the first set point. However, they would throw away the advantage with a missed serve. There are rules against missing serves with the set on the line. Laval took the next point to give them their first set point, and since they already had two sets this was a match point. However, they did themselves the same disservice by missing their serve. Vigrass became the difference maker with two huge blocks to close out the set 27-25 Calgary to force a fifth and deciding set.
The missed serves continued in the fifth set, with everything on the line. Four missed serves kept the set tight but the energy low. The set was up for grabs tied at 9-9, then at 10-10. Again, the squads tied at 12-12. Calgary managed to take the lead briefly for the first set point, but again missed their serve during an absolutely crucial moment to tie the set at 14-14. Laval came up with a big block on the next play to take a match point of their own. Calgary again resorted to their star Vigrass for a huge point to stay alive.
Golden Bears' setter tried to end a long rally by tipping on the second ball, but Laval showed up large with a block for their third match point of the day. On that point, Frederic Mondou caught the antennae with his attack to tie it again at 16-16. The Dinos' 10 Allen Meek showed up in the clutch by barely putting a backcourt attack into the corner of Laval's court. The point gave Calgary their second match point. Laval made a crucial error and overpassed the Golden Bears' serve. Calgary's 1 Levi Nutma emphatically smashed the overpass to win the set, match, and bronze medal for Calgary after a barnburning 18-16 set victory.
The Calgary Dinos continue Canada West's dominance over every other conference in the CIS. The win guarantees a medal sweep for Canada West, and it also means no other league was able to beat a Canada West team even once in the National Championship Tournament. It was incredibly close in the end, but with the Dino's laid back attitude during warm-up, perhaps it wasn't a peak performance either.