CIS: 2015 Men's Championships Day 1 Recap

The opening day is in the books at the 2015 CIS Men’s Volleyball Championships in Saskatoon. The Dalhousie vs York quarter final didn’t disappoint as many expected a great match from start to finish. Trinity Western showed that they have regained focus after a Canada West finals loss less than a week ago. Favoured teams Alberta and McMaster were very solid in their openers. Day two’s schedule will deliver more excitement as we will see who will play for the National Championship Saturday. 

Waterloo - OUA Silver Medalist (6) vs York - OUA Bronze Medalist  (7) - 1:00pm CST

Friday’s Consolation semi final will be the 4th time these teams have met this season. They traded regular season wins by defeating each other on the road. Their 3rd meeting was an OUA Final 4 semi final where Waterloo was able to slow down CIS Rookie of the Year Josh Henderson to win 3-1. 

York showed a lot of grit against Dalhousie in the opening quarter final of the tournament. The Lions trailed 2-0 in the match and looked to be down and out when Dal lead 23-19. Josh Henderson lead a service run that included a kill by middle Alexander Duncan Thibault, who also forced a hitting error from Tigers middle Matthew Donovan. Henderson would also get an ace before ending the 4 serve run with an error. York would get two kills down the stretch from superstar Ray Szeto before closing out the set on a Dalhousie hitting error. York carried that momentum into the 4th set and controlled the whole way winning 25-16 to force a 5th set. The 5th set was back and forth the entire way until a York hitting error put Dalhousie up 14-13 then an Alex Dempsey kill clinched a birth in the semi’s for Dal.  Ray Szeto was steady once again for the Lions leading the way with 21 total points and 10 digs. Alex Duncan Thibault had an impressive .545 hitting percentage with 7 kills, 4 block assists for 9 points. Josh Henderson went 12 for 25 with 6 errors. Not a bad game, but off the pace of his usual production. 

Waterloo’s quarter final had a much different flow to it. The Warriors faced defending champions Alberta in their match. Middle Taylor Arnett sparked a 7 point serving run to put the Golden Bears up 10-3 early on. Alberta controlled the entire first set winning 25-14. The Bears didn’t let up in the second set. They put together several runs of 2-3 points on defence to control the set 25-12. The Warriors settled in during the third set and a late run where thy would close a 5 points gap. Alberta remained steady and finished the match with a 25-22 win. Waterloo was lead by Aaron Wiersma with 6 kills and 7.5 points. Unfortunately his .188 hitting percentage lead all starters for the Warriors.  

Now that the first round nerves are over it will be interesting to see which team can bounce back. Playing against a provincial rival should help each team snap back. During the OUA Semi Final York played with a lot of emotion that affected their play both positively and negatively. If they can find the right balance they are a tough team to match up with. Waterloo will need to be steady on serve receive and remain in system to advance to the consolation final. 

Laval - RSEQ Champion (4) vs Saskatchewan - Host (8) - 3:00pm CST

Laval struggled to settle in early versus Trinity Western in the quarters. The Spartans quickly lead 8-2. That quick start fuelled them to a 3-0 victory over the Rouge et Or 25-14, 25-14, 25-19. Laval struggled from the serving line missing 10 serves. Trinity was firing on all cylinders on offence. The Spartans hit .431 with 35 kills on 65 attempts. Laval’s offence couldn’t match as they hit 0.83%. Laval’s offence usually goes through Bruno Lortie and Vicente P. Villaiobos. Both outside hitters finished in the negative. Olivier Jannini lead the way for Laval with 9.5 points. If he can remain steady while his teammates regain their form Laval could finish with another top 5 performance to add to their storied history. 

Saskatchewan gave everything they had against the number one seed McMaster Marauders. The Huskies pushed an exciting first set to 24 all before OUA Player of the Year Danny Demyanenko finished off the set with two straight kills. Sask answered the bell one more time when they tied the 2nd set at 17 all. McMaster once again closed it out this time by some strong serving from Stephen Maar. McMaster’s intensity was to much to handle as they closed out the match in 3 sets with a 25-18 3rd set win. Tyler Epp lead the way with 10.5 points. The Huskies remained balanced on offence as Jordan Nowakowski and Paul Thomson added 9.5 and 9 points respectfully. 

Laval’s keys to victory today will be forgetting yesterday’s match and getting back to what made them successful all season. The Rouge et Or will need everyone to be sharper if they hope to advance. Saskatchewan battled well for a team that was off for a few weeks. They’ll need to come out firing to get the home crowd involved early to push them past the RSEQ Champions. 

Dalhousie - AUS Champion  (2) vs Alberta - Can West Champion (3)

The seeding committee took a lot of heat this week when defending National Champions the Alberta Golden Bears were ranked 3rd. Some questioned why the defending champions who won their division with 5 returning starters were not ranked 1 or 2 going in. Perhaps it was all a master plan to create some controversy heading into the event when the powers that be knew they’d have to play it out in their semi final anyways. 

Dalhousie earned their trip to the medal round with a 3-2 victory over the Lions. As mentioned they looked in control leading 2-0 and up 23-19 before the wheels fell off. Early predications said that MVP Bryan Duquette and AUS All-Star Kristen O’Brian would need to be on their game for the Tigers to advance. They certainly were as Bryan had 16 points and Kristen had 18.5 but it was the play of Alex Dempsey that pushed Dalhousie into the semis. Alex was clutch earning 2 kills after the 10 point mark in the fifth set for the Tigers. He would finish the game with 14 kills. If the Tigers are going to beat the defending champions they will need more production out of their middles. Matthew Donovan and Connor Maesson only had 21 total attempts out of Dalhousie’s 130.  

Alberta’s returning starters didn’t disappoint in their opening round match up. Goranson, Proudfoot, and Barnes all hit over 300% and were steady in the Golden Bears 3-0 win over Waterloo. The play of 3rd year Taylor Arnett should have Alberta fans excited. Arnett went 7 for 10 on offence, add in a serving ace, 2 digs and 5 block assists for 10.5 points in his first CIS Quarter Final start. It was Taylor’s serving run in the first set that allowed Alberta to pull away early. It doesn’t look like Alberta will be touched if Taylor can continue that production with the other pieces producing at their high level that we are all used to. 

McMaster - OUA Champions (1) vs Trinity Western - Can West Silver Medalist  (5) - 8:00pm CST

This semi-final has the potential of being the match of the tournament. There is no question that the Canada West conference has controlled this event for the last 20 years. Only Laval from the RSEQ has won a gold medal outside of Can West in the last 20 seasons. The OUA has been coming on strong thanks in large part to the McMaster program. They have medalled twice in the last two years. If they are going to capture the gold medal for the OUA they will have to earn it by going through Trinity Western. 

Trinity Western was very aggressive from the service line in the opener. They put Laval in a lot of trouble with 6 aces and a lot of runs. Their serving game set the table for 16 digs and 17 block assists. It’s no secret that the Trinity offence goes through CIS Player of the Year Nick Del Bianco. The 5th year outside hitter received the ultimate compliment from his coach Ben Josephson who said he is one of the most complete players that the program has ever produced. High praise considering Trinity Western has been a pipeline to the National Team over the last 10 years. Del Bianco will be joined on offence by left side Ryan Sclater who added 13.5 points in the opening round victory. Black Scheerhoorn was effective with his 7 kills on 14 attempts. He will need to be on his game again in the semis as he is across the net from athletes he grew up playing against at OVA competitions as well as Junior National Teammates Brandon Koppers and Andrew Richards. The Spartans key to victory against McMaster will be their strong serving game that compliments their blocking game plan. If they can take away the middle from Mac they have a shot at upsetting the number one seed. 

McMaster’s vets have been building towards this moment their whole career. Alex Campion - Smith and Jori Mantha were members of the 2011 team that finished 5th at Nationals. That same year Trinity won their first of back to back championships. Nick Del Bianco was a rookie on that team and saw limited court time. The vets of Mac continued to built the program into the a National Contender. They captured silver in 2013 and bronze last year in Calgary. Austin showed his veteran presence in the quarter final with 38 assists. Mac’s offence always had 4 attackers going at Sask’s 3 blockers. The Marauders hit over 400% as a team. Second year left side Brandon Koppers wasn’t as sharp as he would have liked but rookie Andrew Richards was able to pick up the slack and go 3 for 3 in the one set of action he saw. Danny Demyanenko showed why there may not be another middle in the country that can handle him. Danny went 11 for 18 and had 16 points. Jori Mantha added 12.5 points on the right side for the Marauders. McMaster will need to pass well to stay in system versus The Spartans. Libero Pawel Jedrzejewski will need to be solid for the McMaster offence to go through Danny. 

Trinity Western will have to slow Danny down, if that’s even possible for the Spartans to return to their first final since they last won in 2012.  On the flip side if Mac can slow down Del Bianco they will prove this team deserved the number one seed and that they are ready to capture CIS Gold.