The Canada West continued their volleyball dominance on the national stage as the University of Alberta Golden Bears took home their second consecutive CIS championship banner.
In 19 of the past 20 years, a CanWest team has won the tournament and this year was no different as Alberta was up against the Trinity Western University Spartans in the final, the same team they beat to win the Canada West championships.
The final would never be close as the Golden Bears cruised to a 3–0 (25–19, 25–17, 25–15) victory as they didn’t lose a set all weekend. Ryley Barnes led the Alberta attack as he recorded 11 kills in the final. Kevin Proudfoot and Ryan Nickifor weren’t far behind with 10 each in the win.
“I’m happy and just so proud of the way the guys put this weekend together,” head coach Terry Danyluk told Global News. “To go 9–0 at this tournament is pretty amazing.”
Alberta took out the University of Waterloo Warriors and the Dalhousie University Tigers, while Trinity Western upset the Université Laval Rouge et Or as well as the top seeded McMaster University Marauders en route to the final.
The true highlight of the weekend was the nightcap on Feb. 26, as the hometown University of Saskatchewan Huskies took on the Marauders in their quarter-final matchup. In front of an announced crowd of 2,223 — 2,300 is considered a sellout — the underdog Huskies proved they belonged on the national stage as they stuck with the Marauders and had a chance to win all three sets, before ultimately losing 3–0 (26–24, 25–20, 25–18).
“The game plan was there and we tried to do what we needed to do, but unfortunately it just wasn’t there like it needed to be. All of us have played better volleyball,” fifth-year outside hitter Paul Thomson said after the heart-breaking loss. “The heart was there, the want was there, but it was our execution that wasn’t. It’s really unfortunate that it wasn’t because we trained all year for this moment and to come out flatter than we needed to be was pretty disappointing.”
Things weren’t all bad for the Dogs as they rebounded nicely from the opening round defeat with a big win over the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec conference champion Rouge et Or in the consolation semifinal, setting up a date with the York University Lions in the fifth-place game.
On Feb. 28 in the consolation final, the Ontario University Athletics bronze medalists proved to be no match for the Huskies, as they looked dominant with a 3–1 (26-24, 23-25, 25-19, 25-15) victory. Jordan Nowakowski was the player of the match for the green and white as he hammered home 21 kills in the Huskies’ final game of the season. Fifth-years Thomson and Matthew Busse ended their careers on a high-note.
“It’s an awesome feeling to go out like that,” Busse said after the game. “Not many people get to win the last game of their career so it’s awesome. I’ll remember that game for the rest of my life.”
Head coach Brian Gavlas was excited about his team’s performance on the national stage.
“For our team it’s important for us to build on. We’ve talked all along about being up there with the best and become one of the best eventually and it’s certainly a stepping-stone for us to know that we’re capable. Do a little bit more here and a little bit more there and maybe we become the best.”
In the third place game, the McMaster squad won their second straight bronze medal with a 3–0 (25–23, 25–16, 25–22) win over Dalhousie. Marauder Jori Mantha took home player of the game honours with his 11-kill performance.
Longtime Marauder coach Dave Preston was pleased with the way his team answered following the tough semifinal loss.
“I am very proud of the way we responded after such a disappointing loss yesterday. To be able to come back out and grind that win out is one of the biggest challenges a student-athlete will have to face.”
Photo: Katherine Fedoroff/Photo Editor