Five For Pondering: Spartans pounce on Pandas

This is the first installment in a new weekly feature I'm going to be posting here every Monday or Tuesday during the major CIS sports' seasons. Rob and Neate have been doing a great job with the RPI and top-ten tracking, so this is intended to supplement those posts with some analysis of interesting games. The idea is to pick five notable games from the past weekend's slate. One will be chosen as the Game of the Week and analyzed in detail; the others will be discussed briefly. Games can be interesting for a wide variety of reasons; big upsets, playoff implications, outstanding individual performances and rivalries are some of the ones I've thought of so far, but feel free to pass along other ideas. Interactivity is encouraged; you can fire me suggestions for future games to feature or other criteria to consider at andrew_bucholtz [at] Without further ado, here's the first edition of Five For Pondering.

Game of the past week:
Women's volleyball: Trinity Western 3, University of Alberta 1 (set scores 15-25, 25-14, 25-23 and 28-26).

Why it's notable: A clash of two highly-ranked teams goes in a direction many wouldn't have expected.

The setup: This was quite the match [Matt Gutsch, University of Alberta Sports Information Director] at U of A's gym on Friday night. Alberta was 12-2 going in and ranked second in the coaches' poll (fifth in RPI), while the Spartans were 7-5, sixth in the coaches' poll and out of the top 10 in the RPI rankings. Moreover, the Pandas had already clinched a playoff spot and had only lost two league matches all year.

There were perhaps cracks in that impressive facade, though. Both of Alberta's previous losses had come at home, and one was in their previous home game (a five-set loss to the Calgary Dinos on Nov. 22 before the winter break). The Pandas looked dominant in their first two games after the break, however, as they knocked off the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in straight sets twice on back-to-back nights in Saskatoon.

On the other side of the court, Trinity had just come off a home split with the 9-5 Manitoba Bisons. They were sixth in the conference where the top seven teams make the playoffs. Trinity's had a good deal of past success in volleyball, but they didn't make it to nationals last year, and their sixth-national ranking came with the caveat that four other Canada West schools were ranked higher (Alberta, Brandon, Calgary and Manitoba). As such, they were a tough opponent, but nothing to make the Pandas quake in their boots.

The game: The night started very well for Alberta, as they took the first set 25-15. That might have made them overconfident, though. The Spartans stormed back with a dominant 25-14 second-set victory and the game was on. The two sides battled back and fourth throughout the third and fourth sets, but Trinity eventually pulled out 25-23 and 28-26 victories to claim the match.

The star: The key to the Spartans' victory? Fifth-year middle hitter Dayna Jansen Van Doorn, famed for her play with the Canadian national team. Jansen Van Doorn put up one of the more impressive stat lines you'll ever see, recording kills on 12 of her 14 attempts (an outstanding .857 kill percentage). She also added three service aces and four assisted blocks.

The aftermath: Trinity went on to beat the Pandas in four sets again the next night and improve their record to 9-5, while Alberta fell to 12-4. The Spartans moved all the way to third in the coaches poll and cracked the RPI at the #10 slot, while Alberta fell to seventh in RPI and a tie for fourth in the coaches' poll. Their conference positions remained the same, though (the Pandas are first, while the Spartans are still sixth).

The four honorable mentions:

Men's volleyball: University of Saskatchewan 3, UBC 2 (set scores: 33-35, 25-20, 25-18, 16-25, 15-12) [Nicole Betker, University of Saskatchewan Athletics]

Why it's notable: The Huskies picked up their only win of the season to improve to 1-12 over a 5-5 UBC team that was ranked eighth in the coaches' poll and fourth in the RPI. That's quite an upset. However, the world returned to normal the next night when UBC beat U of S in straight sets. Clearly, the Huskies' upset didn't affect too much in the long run: UBC stayed in the coaches' top 10 (but fell to the tenth spot) and the RPI (but fell to sixth). On the individual front, UBC fifth-year outside hitter Steve Gotch put up an astounding 30 kills in the defeat while Huskies' second-year outside hitter Brett Wegner had 20 kills.

Women's hockey: McGill 10, Concordia 0 [Earl Zukerman, McGill Athletics]

Why it's notable: Yes, number-one ranked McGill won their 38th-straight game and beat Concordia for the 24th time in a row. What's more notable about this one was the play of second-year forward Ann-Sophie Bettez, who tied a school record with five goals and another one with seven points. Impressive, to say the least. She has 16 goals and 36 points in only 10 games and is tied with Alberta's Miranda Miller (18 goals, 36 points) for second in the CIS scoring race. Moreover, Miller and teammate Tarin Podolski, who leads all CIS players with a 14-27-41 line, have both played seven more games than Bettez. Bettez has already broken the McGill record for goals in a season and is close to the Quebec record (22 goals, ironically set by Concordia's Corinne Swirsky in 1999-2000). She was the CIS rookie of the year last season with a 15-14-29 campaign and has already bested that; she also played for Team Canada at this past year's world under-22 championships. Keep an eye on her march to the record books.

Men's basketball: St. Mary's 113, UPEI 111 (overtime) [CIS box score]

Why it's notable: One of the higher-scoring games you'll see in CIS basketball. Also, Huskies Ikeobi Uchegbu, Mark McLaughlin, Joey Haywood and Jack Gallinaugh all notched over 20 points, as did Nick Toews, Manock Lual and Gamaliel Rose of UPEI. McLaughlin's performance was particularly impressive, as he notched 25 points, six rebounds, eight assists and five steals. He also shot 56 per cent from the field, made all six of his free throws and picked up the AUS Athlete of the Week honour as well.

Women's volleyball: Thompson Rivers 3, Brandon Bobcats 2 (set scores: 25-20,25-20,23-25,25-15,20-18) [Larry Read, Thompson Rivers Sport Information Officer]

Why it's notable: The 4-9 WolfPack had never beaten a ranked team in their four years in CIS, while the 10-3 Bobcats were ranked third in the coaches' poll. They weren't in the RPI Top 10, though, which suggests that they may not have been as good as their record suggested. Still, a very impressive result for Thompson Rivers. The WolfPack are only four points behind Regina for the final playoff spot, and they could make some noise if they get in there.
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