After six months of competition, it finally comes down to this: the CIS Final. Three matches today to determine the top 5 teams in the country. Here's what in store for you today!
York vs Saskatchewan
Both teams showed their toughness as they were able to bounce back after disappointing losses on day 1. York gave Dalhousie everything they could handle in a 5 set thriller to open the tournament. The Lions didn’t show any signs of the poor me’s on day 2 as they went the distance once again in another 5 set marathon versus provincial rival Waterloo. Ray Szeto came to play vs the Warriors with a 28 point performance. His 26 kills added to his tournament leading 46 kills. He is averaging a CIS leading 4.6 kills per set and is only behind Alberta’s Ryley Barnes with 4.9 points per set. York received a boost from their middles this match with Alexander Duncan Thibault hitting 400% with 6 kills and 8.5 points. Arthur Swarcz received player of the game honours for York with his 18 points. The first year middle was unstoppable at times with 15 kills on 27 errors with 1 error. Rookie setter Logan Mend stepped in to help close out the victory over Waterloo. Hopefully Nicola Sandic will return to action today.
Middle Robert Graham provided the spark the Huskies needed on day 2. Graham scored 6 points for Saskatchewan on Thursday night vs McMaster. He more than doubled his output and took over vs Laval yesterday afternoon. Graham earned player of the game scoring 15 points, that included an impressive 11 kills on only 13 attempts. Jordan Nowakowski continued his strong play with 19.5 points in the 3-1 victory over Laval. Sask was able to control the net earning 16 points off blocks. They also added 6 service aces vs the Rouge et Or. Vicent P Villaiobos bounced back after a rough opener vs Trinity with 19 points. Saskatchewan had an answer for every other Laval attacker as they held them to a 149 hitting %.
This 5th place consolation final offers some interesting match ups. York has played a lot of sets going into today’s game. York will need to start fast in hopes of ending it early. Szeto is leading the tournament with 95 attempts over the two matches. York will need everything he’s got to capture the 5th place finish. Sask will once again look to Nowakowski to receive the most volume against the Lions. Surrounding casts will be the difference maker. Tyler Epp and Robert Graham will need to match the play of Josh Henderson and Arthur Swarcz.
McMaster vs. Dalhousie
Not exactly the one versus two seed match up these teams had in mind when the rankings were announced Monday. It is never easy to bounce back for a bronze medal match after a heart breaking semi. McMaster was able to pull it off last year and earn the extra bid for their conference last year. It’s anyone’s guess on who will lead their team today as both teams hope to send their seniors off with a CIS Medal.
Dalhousie has shown why they controlled the AUS conference entering the CIS Tournament with a 16-1 record. This team is well coached and prepared for most situations. They closed out their quarter final against York after leading 2-0, they took control late in the 5th set. Yesterday in the semi finals the Tigers had a plan that looked to be working early versus the Alberta Golden Bears. Dal lead at 20 before the defending champions showed their experience to close it out 25-22. The second set was much of the same as the Tigers keep hanging around up until 19-18 before the Bears once again closed it out with experience a serving run by Michael Goertz. In the third and final set Dalhousie pushed it to 18-18 before a late push sealed their fate at 25-19 for Alberta. Bryan Duquette lead the Tigers with 12.5 points. He struggled at times with 12 kills and 8 errors. Setter Jonathan Macdonald kept the Tigers in it with 30 and 3 well timed dumps for kills. Macdonalds performance was good enough to earn him player of the match. The Dalhousie middles were surprising efficient considering Alberta has two of the best middles in the event. Dal will need similar production from Maessen and Donovan because McMaster likes to run their offence through the middle.
The McMaster vs Trinity Western didn’t disappoint as many thought it would be the best match of the tournament. Both teams showed relentless effort with three out of the four sets went into extra points. Mac had a great plan going in that slowed down the high powered offence of the Spartans. Tough to say what the difference was as it felt like it could go either way. Trinity did a great job of always adjusting to the McMaster side. This was spotlighted as they finally had an answer for Danny Demyanenko with 2 blocks after 20 in the forth and final set. Fellow middle Alex Elliott provided a spark for the Marauders with 15 points. Up from his 6 the night before against Saskatchewan. McMaster has a lot of depth up and down their roster. They have a few options with their line up to spark a rebound game tomorrow versus the Tigers. Expect them to be ready to battle after a tough let down in their semi final.
Dalhousie attended the Alden Cup that McMaster hosted in St. Petersburgh, Flordia over the January break. Although they didn’t play against each other it’s a safe bet that both coaching staffs were paying attention to the other. Both teams have been ready with well thought out game plans for this tournament. This bronze medal match won’t be any different as both teams look for an advantage versus fellow conference champion.
Alberta vs Trinity Western
Trinity Western coach Ben Josephson didn’t hide the secret to their game plan against Alberta today. They are going to go serve the ball as hard as they can. The Spartans will have to take a few chances to hope to beat the favoured Golden Bears. The Spartans currently lead the CIS Championship with 13 service aces. Alberta is leading the tournament with points earned per set. They have so many ways to produce points from their high powered offence to their great blocking scheme.
Brett Walsh is showing why he is considered the best setter in the CIS. It will be interesting to see what match ups he looks to exploit against the Spartans. Alberta has so many weapons to choose from. Alberta’s middle have to be considered the best in the tournament. John Goranson is up to his usual standard of play and Taylor Arnett is having a breakout tournament for the Golden Bears. At crunch time the Bears can look to their middles or rely on right side Kevin Proudfoot or superstar Ryley Barnes. With so many weapons to choose from, Spartan coach Ben Josephson wasn’t going out on a limb when he said they will need to serve tough to compete in this final.
Trinity has looked tough all tournament. They have seen early exits from the medal round in years past thanks to back to back years versus the Western Mustangs. This year the Spartans have found their stride beating Laval in the quarter finals and beating a very tough McMaster team in the semi final. The Spartans may not look as good on paper as their rival the Alberta Golden Bears but they have several weapons of their own. After a tough Canada West final loss to the Bears the Spartans must be thankful for another chance at the defending champions. As much as we may want to believe the Spartans are the underdog with the 5th seed going into this match, it really is to close to call. Alberta defeated Trinity 3-1 at Canada West with set scores 26-24, 25-20, 25-27, 25-20. The Spartans will have a plan in place that will focus on their serving game. During the Can West final Nick Del Bianco was able to dial it up for 4 services aces against the bears. If his Trinity teammates can join him with some bombs from the baseline they will give Alberta their first set loss of the tournament. The Spartans did a great job adjusting to their opponent in their first two matches of the CIS Finals. Obviously the situation is a little different as they will play the Golden Bears for a fourth time today. These two teams know each other very well and it is anyone’s guess who will take it.
If you are in Saskatoon be sure to get tickets and watch the final day live at the University of Saskatchewan. For the rest of us be sure to catch all of the action from the CIS Live Stream. The commentators have done a great job all tournament and will keep you laughing with some great one liners.