By: Brendan Collins
Finishing in first, the Dalhousie Tigers (13-4) hoped to follow-up their AUS 2013/14 regular season with a victory against the University of New Brunswick Reds (11-6) in game one of the AUS Men’s Volleyball Championships. They did just that. Having already earned their home court for their first match, the Tigers opened their post-season with an exciting five set victory (26-24, 24-26, 25-21, 20-15, 15-12) over UNB to take a 1-0 lead in the best two-of-three series. Dalhousie outside, Bryan Duquette earned player of the game having scored a match high 23 kills on a 46 attempts (.348). Tiger Middle Connor Maessen went 11/13 for kills (.692), while UNB’s Julia Fernandez, who is ranked top five in each AUS hitting category, earned a mere 9 kills on 28 attempts (0.36). At no point was Dalhousie trailing in sets, outplaying UNB to earn the first match. The second match of this Men’s AUS Championship will be held in Fredericton on the 15th where the Reds hope to force a final rubber match.
As the men entered post-season play, the women competed in their final week of the regular season and decide the match-ups for next weekend’s 2013/2014 Women’s AUS Volleyball Championship in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In the most pivotal match of this past weekend, the Dalhousie Tigers (12-4) defeated the Saint Mary’s Huskies (10-5) in a decisive three set sweep. The Tigers not only secured the first seed, a quarter-final bye, and home court advantage going into next weekend, but also continued their eight match winning streak by refusing to relinquish a single set over their last five matches and just one over their last six (18-1). Meanwhile, UNB managed to win both their matches against both Acadia and Moncton this weekend to clinch third place. SMU finished comfortably in second and will play the winner of (6)Acadia (4-11) vs. (3)UNB (7-9) quarter-final match while, Dalhousie plays the victor of quarter-final between (5)Moncton (6-10) and (4)Memorial (6-10) next Saturday late afternoon. Cape Breton (0-16) finished in last place this year with only two total set victories and did not qualify for this year’s playoffs. Next Friday will feature the two quarter-final match-ups that will decide who faces each of the top ranked Halifax universities in Saturday’s semi-finals. Tune in next Sunday for the 2013/2014 AUS Women’s Volleyball Championships in Halifax, NS
By: Everett Delorme
The playoffs are now locked down in the OUA, with six men’s teams and eight women’s teams moving on.
With a 17-1 record, the McMaster Marauders will host the OUA Final Four and receive a direct bye into the semi finals. Joining them is the Western Mustangs (17-3) who defeated the Waterloo Warriors 3-2 on Friday night to grab hold of second place. Garrett May led the Mustangs with 16 points, while Zach Doherty and Jordan Dyck paced the Warriors with 17 points a piece in a losing effort.
Waterloo will host Queen’s on Saturday night in the quarterfinal. Queen’s picked up a pair of well needed wins this weekend over Ryerson and Toronto, both 3-0, breaking a four game slide which included a loss to league rookies Nipissing. The winner of this meeting will have a date with Western in the Final Four.
The other quarterfinal will have York hosting their downtown rivals the Ryerson Rams on Friday night. Ryerson has had a rough second half of the season, going 4-5, while York went on a short three-game skid before defeating Nipissing 3-0 on the weekend. The winner of this Toronto battle will have to prepare to face the top team in the OUA and in the country in their next match.
On the women’s side, when the OUA brought back the East and West divisions this year, the old playoff format would no longer work. Unfortunately, their decision to not crossover in the quarterfinals and just have 1 play 4 and 2 play 3 within their division has backfired. The East division has dominated the West this year. The top four teams in the East all went to the Final Four last year, and all are arguably stronger than last year. If you take the four teams moving on from either division, the East has a 13-3 record against the West. With this model, the OUA Final Four will be missing at least one of the top three teams in the conference.
Queen’s halted Toronto’s late season surge in the last game of the season with a 3-2 win, but the Blues still managed to keep a hold of top spot in the OUA. Their opponent won’t have to travel very far, as the Ryerson Rams stand in their way of hosting the Final Four. The other quarterfinal will be a rematch of last year’s OUA Final, with Ottawa visiting York. Both of these teams have been Nationally ranked this year, so this is one you won't want to miss.
In the west division, Guelph has the top spot with a 14-5 record, dropping only one match in the second half of the season. Their opponent will be the Lakehead Thunderwolves, who won a the tie-breaker over Brock and Western as all three held 6-13 records. McMaster will host Windsor in the last quarterfinal. The Marauders are another team who suffered only one loss in the second half of the season while the Windsor Lancers have made a huge turn around, as they went from being 3-15 last year, to 13-6 this year.
By: Pierre Rocque
Canada West Men’s Playoff Preview
Brandon vs. UBC
Both teams are coming off season closing splits. UBC taking down the Alberta Golden Bears on Friday night assured themselves a second place finish and a date with the seventh place team. Brandon traded 3-0 wins with the Dinos in Calgary which dropped them behind the Dinos to lock up the final playoff spot. In what will be a battle of outsides Sam Tuivai and Sebastien Steigmeier carrying the workload for Brandon both averaging over 3.00 kills a set will face off head to head with Ben Chow and Quentin Schmidt averaging 3.72 and 2.85 respectively on a team that has a very balanced offense?
UBC will have the advantage with Junior National team middle Alex Russell controlling the net, if UBC passes well setter Milan Nikic will be able to run a bigger of variety of offense with his two strongest outsides and Russell being available.
Brandon will be looking to play the serve and block game and slow down the Thunderbirds by playing big volleyball. They average a little over 2 blocks a set with UBC being just under that.
UBC is the home team and will hope to use the War Memorial to their advantage in what could be the final weekend of Men’s volleyball at UBC.
Saskatchewan vs. TRU
The University of Saskatchewan Huskies have a balanced attack coming from five players with over 120 kills on the season. Being lead on the outside by Bryan Fraser, Paul Thmson and Jordan Nowakowski with over 200 kills apiece. This goes without the mention of Junior Natoinal team member Braden McLean in the middle tearing it up at clip over .330 and 80 total blocks. The Huskies will be looking to spread it out this weekend against the TRU WolfPack.
The WolfPack bring a slightly different look with five players over 100 kills, but Brad Gunter carries the workload as he has over 5 kills a set hitting at an impressive rate of .299 he is followed next by Casey Knight at just under 3 kills a set and a .254 efficiency. TRU will have to deal with a strong blocking team in Saskatchewan, but with the strength of Gunter the other attackers will have to be difference makers as the Huskies will be looking to slow him down as much as possible.
TRU is the home team, but in the environment that does not have a history of being packed it may not play into the match. Hopefully a well attended weekend could give the WolfPack the boost they need in the playoffs.
Calgary vs. Alberta
In a classic battle of Alberta the University of Calgary return to the site where they upset the Golden Bears on a Saturday night. The Bears are going to rely heavily on the outsides with Riley Barnes and Jay Olmstead carrying a majority of the share when attacking. With several different options for Coach Danyluk the Bears have two strong setters in Brett Walsh and Jaron Mueller, if one is struggling things may change up real fast. The Bears will have a boisterous home crowd at the Saville Center all weekend which will give them a big lift with cross province rivals rolling into town.
The Dinos are coming off a strong season of splitting almost every weekend to go .500 and secure a playoff spot after a one year hiatus. The Dinos are a group of misfits who refuse to give up, they have won games in every fashion, relying a lot of the heavy arm of Gregg Mann and the big blocking of French import Ivan Kartev. The Dinos are in tough but in true form the group they will likely push the Bears to their limits.
All these teams are looking for the right to join the Trinity Western Spartans in Langley next weekend for the Canada West Final Four.
Canada West Women’s Playoff Preview
UBC-O vs. Brandon
Brandon has been a thorn in every team’s side all year long as they have beat every team at least once and did so in a balanced attack fashion and big block. The Bobcats have all five starters over 100 kills being lead by leftsides Shanlee McLennan at 242 and Victoria Dakin at 197 kills. The Bobcats rely heavily on strong defense, beginning with their block that had over 200 blocks as a team.
UBC-O tinkered around the top of the league for the first half of the season but have fallen off in the second half to grab the final playoff spot. The Heat did not have a player with over 200 kills, but were lead by second year outside Megan Festival who had 179 kills averaging 2.49 kills per set. The Heat will have to get their lunch pale and hard hat out and work hard all weekend if they want to pull out the upset in the always raucous Bobcats home gym. The Heat have over a 100 more digs this season than the Bobcats and if they have a chance this weekend it will be on the back of great defense.
Regina vs. TWU
The Cougars are lead by rookie setter Leah Shevkenek and outside hitter Desiree Ates who is averaging over 4 kills a set and is the clear leader on the offense for the Cougars, with miiddle Michelle Sweeting chipping in with over 3 kills a set and over a block a set to really establish the middle for Regina. Regina may be happy to be in the playoffs but can make some noise if they put pressure on the ball control of the Spartans.
Trinity Western Spartans are very familiar with being in the playoffs and playing in front of probably the best home crowd in the country they will be very comfortable hosting this quarter final with Regina. The Spartans are lead by Sophie Carpentier on the attacking end with 294 kills, but only two other attackers from Trinity Western have over 100 kills. They rely heavily on their block as they lead the conference with 3.41 blocks per set which was over half a block more than the next closest team.
Alberta vs. Manitoba
The Pandas take their show on the road after a strong half of the season where they climbed the standings to a fifth place finish, earning the privilege of travelling to Winnipeg for a playoff date with the Manitoba Bisons. The Pandas will have a slightly different look from the first time they met as rookie setter Mariah Walsh is back from injury and helping run the offense at a higher clip. Outside hitters Meg Cassault, Karly Janssen and Kacey Otto all with over 170 kills will be fueling the offense. The Pandas are riding high with a five game winning streak heading into the playoffs, including two wins over UBC at home last weekend.
The Bisons bring a high octane offense averaging almost 13 kills a set which is second only to UBC and they bring the fourth most efficient offense in the conference. They will be heavily relying on outside hitters Rachel Cockrell and Taylor Pischke who bring a combined 7 kills a set.
Hosting the match in Winnipeg will be likely bring out the strongest performance from the Bison’s this season but are in tough with the Pandas who are hitting their stride at just the right time.
All the teams are playing for the right to join UBC at the War Memorial Gym next weekend in the Canada West Final Four.