CIS: February 14th-16th Playoff Recap

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AUS

By: Everett Delorme

The Dalhousie Tigers are the 2014 AUS Champions for both Men's and Women's volleyball. The Men's team defeated UNB at in Fredericton on Saturday 3-2 to clinch the best-of-three series and take back the AUS title. The women defeated Saint Mary's on Sunday by a score of 3-0 in the Final of the AUS Championships.

The AUS Championships opened on Friday night with Moncton outlasting Memorial 3-2, and UNB overcoming Acadia 3-1. Neither team made much of a showing on Saturday, as the Aigles Bleus fell to the Tigers, while the Varsity Reds dropped to Huskies, both in straight sets. 

The two teams split their series on the season, but it was clear that Dalhousie was the favourite right from the get go as they jumped to a 10-2 lead, and never even thought about looking back. They proceeded to steamroll Saint Mary's in straight sets 25-10, 25-17, 25-20 to claim their second-straight AUS title. First-team All-Star Desiree Nouwen had a match-high 19.5 points for the Tigers in the win. 

In the Men's Final, Dalhousie closed out the AUS title away from home as they defeated UNB in the second-leg of their best-of-three final. 

It looked like UNB was going to force a third and deciding game throughout the first and second sets, as they grabbed them both 25-22 and 25-20, setting up the sweep. The Tigers had something else in mind, and must have a found a hidden stash of Michael Jordan's Secret Stuff, because they flipped a switch. Dalhousie evened things up with 25-21 and 25-20 wins in the third and fourth, then took it all home with a good-enough-for-Disney 19-17 to finish the match and the series. 

We don't know if a double-double can be a stat line in volleyball, but if it is, UNB's Eivind Anderson had 21 points and 21 digs in the losing effort, while Logan Keoughan hit a .591 and scored 19.5 points. Dalhousie's cream cheese offence was led by Bryan Duquette with 17.5 points, but all five hitters reached double-digits.

RSEQ

By: Stéphane Jobin

For the second year in a row, no. 5-Laval Rouge et Or and Montreal Carabins are facing off in the RSEQ finals. Both teams already booked their ticket to the CIS Championship in Calgary thanks to Laval’s national title in 2013. The Rouge et Or won its four outings against “les Bleus” this season, the last two being five-set thrillers. Everything was in place for a great battle in the first match of the best-of-three series Sunday afternoon in Quebec City.

Montreal had a hard time finding their rhythm at the brand-new PEPS Stadium and Laval was up two sets to none early in the game, even though they had not played an official match in 15 days. The momentum switched sides in the third, but it was too little, too late and the Red and Gold was able to pull a four-set victory, taking a 1-0 lead in the series. Second-year left side hitter Olivier Jannini finished the game with 15 kills and a 37.9% efficiency rate. Second game will be played in Montreal Friday evening.

On the women’s side, we also have a Laval-Montreal confrontation in the RSEQ finals. The Rouge et Or defeated Sherbrooke in the semis to earn the right to play the two-time Quebec defending champs. The Carabins only suffered four losses this season, two of them against no. 9-Laval.

No. 4-Montreal started off strong in the first match of the finals Saturday evening in Montreal. With a quick 25-13 first set and a 25-20 come-from-behind second set, the Carabins looked in good shape to put that match in the books quite easily. The home team even had a 20-12 priority in the third, before Laval came back to life.

The Rouge et Or fought through five match points and flew away with a 31-29 win in the third, before taking the fourth 25-15 en route to a fifth set. But the noisy crowd ultimately was a factor as the 600 fans lifted Montreal to a 15-9 victory. Fourth-year left side Marie-Sophie Nadeau had a good night with 14 kills and a 37.9% efficiency rate. The second match will be played in Quebec City next Friday. 

OUA

By: Everett Delorme

WOMEN

No. 10 Ottawa – 3 York – 0

This re-match of the 2013 OUA Final was not one that many expected this early in the playoffs, but as both teams suffered late season slides, only one got the chance to make a repeat experience.

As expected, that match was a nail bitter. York jumped out to an early lead in the first, up 10-5 before Ottawa started making their push back. York, who found themselves down 24-22, managed to tie it up at 24, but Ottawa was able to close out the first 26-24. The second set was much of the same, with both teams fighting for the lead, and Ottawa coming out on top at 26-24 to go up 2-0.

The beginning of the third set looked like York was already. Ottawa’s serving was wreaking havoc in the Lions serve receive, and the Gee-Gees seemed on their way to an easy win, up as much as 18-11. York stared to push back, going on a few serving runs of their own, but the deficit was too large, as Ottawa booked their ticket to the OUA Final Four with a 25-22 win, taking the match 3-0.

The English twins paced the Gee-Gees with 17 points for Kelsie and 18 Myriam, while Steph Theiler chipp in with 14 digs. Brandie Wilkerson led the Lions with a 17-point effort, while libero Jennifer Black steadied her team with 13 digs.

No. 8 Toronto – 3 Ryerson – 0

The second OUA Quarterfinal featured both of downtown Toronto’s teams, as the Ryerson Rams visited the Toronto Varsity Blues. The teams split their meetings this year, but Toronto’s late-season surge has placed them on top of the OUA standings, and they clearly weren’t prepared to give that up.

The No. 8 team in the country was on point both offensively and defensively on Saturday, completely bulldozing over the Rams. Maybe it was the relentless efficiency by the Blues, or maybe it was just one of those days for Ryerson, because they did not show up for this one. The Rams hit a paltry .077 as a team, where as the team on the other side hit a smooth .408 to led Toronto to a 25-18, 25-17, 25-21 win.

Jen Neilson led the Varsity Blues with 16 points, while Charlotte Sider added another 12. Kristina Vlcek was the only Ram to get close to double-digits points, picking up eight in the loss. 

MEN

Ryerson - 3 York - 2

The top two point-scorers in the OUA faced-off in the first Quarterfinal when Rob Wojcik and the Ryerson Rams visited Ray Szeto and the York Lions. Szeto led the OUA in scoring this year, while Wojcik finished second. On this night though, it was the other way around, as the runner-up powered the Rams to a 3-2 win with 23 kills.

The game was destined to go to five. Ryerson took the opener 25-23,  but York answered taking the second and third by the same score, forcing the Rams to take the fourth convincingly 25-18. The fifth was a tightly fought affair through the side change, up until Rob Wojcik went back to serve. Opting to go with a jump float instead of his usual jump spin, Wojcik didn't serve any aces, but disrupted the Lions serve receive just enough to allow Ryerson to go on a run. That separation clinched the match for Ryerson, and booked them a spot in the Final Four this weekend. 

The big factor in the Ryerson win was the play of Lucas Coleman, who notched 17 kills in the win. Defensively, rookie libero Will Otten led the match with 19 digs. Ray Szeto had a night for the Lions, with 22 of his 25 points coming from kills while both middles, Greg Ivan and Alex Duncan-Thibault, were solid combining for 19 kills, neither of them making an error on the night. York's serve receive and predictable offence was the source of their problem, as neither of the outsides were able to hit in the positive figures during the match, forcing the Lions to repeatedly go to Szeto. 

No. 9 Waterloo – 3 Queen’s – 1

The Waterloo Warriors have booked their ticket to McMaster and a date with the Western Mustangs after a 3-1 win over the Queen’s Golden Gaels on Saturday.

It didn’t start pretty for the Warriors, as the Gaels jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when they took the opener 25-22. The first few points of the second were back and forth, than the relentless Waterloo offence took control, and it didn’t stop. The Warriors controlled every aspect of the match from there on in. Four Warriors reached double digits in kills; Tyler Motherwell and Zach Doherty paced each other with 11 kills, while Aleks Poldma and James Evans scored 13 and 14 respectively. Someone might also want to check for holes in the PAC’s floor, because the Warriors scooped up everything, making 52 digs, with Libero of the Year Erich Woolley leading the way with 14. Mike Tomlinson was the guy for Queen’s, dropping 20 points that included 15 kills, four aces and a block, but that was about all Queen’s had to offer on this night.

If anything, this match is just a reflection on how good the Warriors actually are. Their ability to relentlessly attack from all five positions is scary good, and the relationship between their blockers and the defense set up around them is airtight. When every player on the court gets both blocks and digs, you’re going to be a very tough team to beat, and that’s exactly what Waterloo did on Saturday night. 

Canada West

By: Pierre Rocque

Men’s Final Four Preview

The tenth ranked Brandon Bobcats went into the War Memorial at UBC and stole back-to-back matches in five from the favored Thunderbirds.  Thursday night the Bobcats fell behind two sets but on the back of Sebastien Stegmeier’s 27 kills the ‘Cats came roaring back to win in five. Friday night was a lot of the same as UBC held a 2-1 lead and lost in five and in very dramatic fashion losing 21-19 in the fifth.

The Bobcats now make their way to Langley to play the Canada West regular season champs Trinity Western Spartans.  With the Spartans playing host in what is historically a great advantage for them, Trinity Western has to be considered the favourites to win the whole weekend.  The Spartans balanced offense who lead the league in hitting percentage, strong blocking and strong servicing, having lead the league in both blocking and service aces make them a frightening opponent for any team.  The Spartans have held the number one ranking in Canada on multiple occasions this year and go into the weekend as the number two team.

The Bobcats will be looking for a lot more individual production from outsides Sam Tuivai and Sebastien Stegmeier who have lead the team when they need it most.  Tuivai is amongst the top 10 kill getters in the Canada West and Steigmeier who has been in and out with injuries could be the difference maker in the match with Trinity if he gets hot.

In the other semi final, the University of Alberta who is coming off two 3-0 wins with the University of Calgary Dinos will face off with the Thompson Rivers WolfPack who booked their ticket with 22-20 win in the fifth set of the third match with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.  Both teams have been in the top half of the table for the entire season and will bring two similar looks to the floor.  Both teams being in the top 4 for hitting percentages and kills, but the difference comes on the defensive side of the ball as the Bears rely heavily on their block where they were number three in the conference and the ‘Pack rely on their backrow defense as they lead the league in digs.

Both teams will live and die on the outside as Bradley Gunter leads the league and the WolfPack in kills and Ryley Barnes who is also in the top 10 in the league will lead the way for the Bears.  It is likely this will be a strongly contested match that comes down to who can slow the other’s star.

The four teams are competing for two tickets to the National Championship being held at the University of Calgary.

Women’s Final Four Preview

With three spots up for grabs for the National Championship being held in Regina the UBC Thunderbirds will be playing host and facing off with their sister school UBCO who earned their right by beating a tough Brandon Bobcat’s team in Brandon, dropping only one set in two matches in what is a very tough road venue for any team in the Canada West.

UBCO had a very strong first half of the season but stumbled to the regular season finish but hit their stride in the playoffs against the Bobcats as big time underdogs.  The Heat play a self described blue collar style of volleyball attempting to play strong defense and out work their opponents.  

The Thunderbirds are coming into this match dropping their final two regular season matches, but still lead or are second in the Canada West in the Canada West including kills, hitting percentage and aces.  They will be looking to press the situation and out muscle their opponent.

In the opposite semi final we will see Trinity Western play the University of Manitoba.  Both team booked their seats in the final four with two match victories in the conference quarterfinals.  Manitoba defeated the University of Alberta Pandas 3-1 and 3-1 while the Spartans defeated Regina without dropping a set to the National Championship hosts.

The Spartans who play similar to their men’s team by looking to stop teams with a strong serve and block game, as they lead the league in blocks by nearly three quarters of a block per set more than their closest competition and third in aces.  The Spartans who were pre season favourites to be at the national championships will look to play big volleyball against the Bisons.

The Bisons who finished up fourth in the conference come in riding the backs of their outside stars Rachel Corckrell and and Taylor Pischke.  They will rely heavily on the volume these two will get as Manitoba who had the second best offense in terms of kills on the season look to put the pressure on Trinity.