CIS: West is... Not Best?

Sean McKay of Western University sets teammate Phil James as Brad Kufske and Lucas Van Berkel of Trinity Western prepare to block during Wester's 3-2 quarterfinal upset of the Spartans Photo: CIS/Yan DoubletFor the first time in 20 years the Tantramar Trophy, awarded to the top Men’s Volleyball team in the CIS, will be heading east of Manitoba.

At 4:30 this afternoon, McMaster University, representing the OUA will take on Laval, representing the RSEQ. Not only that, but the Bronze medal match will feature another team from the OUA, the Western Mustangs, who are taking on the Brandon Bobcats, the lone representative from the Canada West conference in contention for a medal.

Are we witnessing a changing of the guard? It hasn’t been since 1993, when Laval won it all, that a team outside of the CanWest conference has won the Tantramar trophy. It hasn’t been since 1968 that a team from Ontario has lifted the trophy as the country’s top men’s volleyball program, when Ottawa won it. To put it in perspective, Ottawa hasn’t had a team in almost 30 years.

We’ve grown accustomed to have four representatives from the west. Most years, all three medalists have come from provinces west of Ontario. This year, at most, only one medal will be heading west.

Last year, we almost witnessed three teams from the East in the final four. Laval defeated Calgary, Queens surprised Alberta, and Western came ever so close to upsetting Manitoba, who went on to take the Bronze medal. This year we’ve witnessed the swing.

The real question is now; will this last? Or is this East dominance just a flash in the pan.

Well looking at the results from 18U National Championships from the past few years, the western provinces may have to get used to Ontario being a factor.

From the years of 1977 to 2007, Ontario only had four 18U Male National Championships to its name. Those gold medals came in 1980, 1985, 1989, and 2002.

Since 2008, Ontario has taken home four of the past five 18U National titles. The lone year that they didn’t take home the title, in 2010, they took home silver.

What’s even more indicative to the change in Ontario’s volleyball culture is the number of teams competing in the Tier 1 Division of Nationals on the final day. Last year, half of the eight teams in Tier 1 were from Ontario. In 2011, seven of the 14 teams in Tier 1 were from Canada’s largest provinces. In fact, in every year that Ontario has won gold, they have dominated Tier 1 with the most teams. The only exception was once again, 2010, when they were only represented but one team.

Regardless if this is a growing trend, or if this is the East’s 15 minutes of fame, these CIS National Championships have been some of the most entertaining and compelling in recent memory. I personally love the thought of every team having a legitimate shot at taking home the trophy.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if it continues.