There is only one team that stands in the way of the University of Alberta Golden Bears defending their title on home court. And it's the Laval Rouge et Or.
Semi Final #1 - Laval 3 McMaster 0: The Rouge et Or fought back from behind in all three sets in yesterday's semi-final against OUA champions the McMaster Marauders. The last set was the most exciting, with Laval battling back from multiple set points and winning 30-28 to clinch the match.
Semi Final #2 - Alberta 3 Brandon 0: Last year Canada West dominated this tournament. This year it is obvious that one team from out West is head and shoulders above the rest. The U of A won 25-20, 25-15, 25-22 looking very at ease in front of 2,400 fans. Brandon fans brought some noise, but not enough to silent the home crowd. U of A has taken huge advantage of being the host of the tournament.
The finals this afternoon at 6pm (MST) will be Laval's first trip to the final since 1994. Laval's trip to the final also ensures an extra team from the Quebec conference next year. One of the things I noticed yesterday was how weak UNB looked compared to the other teams. I asked UBC coach Richard Schick about why they were in the tournament. He said because the CanWest swept the medals last year, the next highest finishing team (Dalhousie in 4th) got an extra bid for their conference. This meant the Atlantic conference, which by the way only has three teams, got two berths. This will be corrected for next year with Quebec getting an extra bid and the OUA could get another big if McMaster beats Brandon today in the Bronze medal game.
Final day preview: Thompson Rivers played in one of the best games of the tournament on Friday afternoon, going five sets with OUA champs McMaster. The WolfPack beat Winnipeg yesterday to earn a right to play today. Their opponent is AUS champs the Dalhousie Tigers. The Tigers blew a chance to have all four conferences represented in the semi-finals by blowing a two set to nothing lead over Brandon on Friday night. The Tigers easily dispatched UNB yesterday.
McMaster and Brandon play at 3pm (MST) - the winner gets a medal. The winner also gets an extra bid for their conference in next year's championship. If Mac wins it would change the whole completion of next year's tournament. Groenveld brothers are the guys to watch for McMaster - combined they had 24 kills in the semi final.
And then there were two left. The number 1 ranked Golden Bears take on the number 2 ranked Rouge et Or. Laval has won three championships (1994, 1992, 1990) but the Bears have won five times and have been in the finals eight years in the row. The Bears are also playing at home and the crowd will be load. It will also be the last game for CIS MVP Joel Schmuland. Schmuland finished the semi-final with 13 kills. Should be an entertaining final - if you are rooting for the Golden Bears.