With the release of the new CIS Top Ten rankings, we break down the movers and the shakers among the nation's premier ball-volleying men.
(Official CIS Rankings - RPI Rankings)
ON THE RISE:
#5 Manitoba Bisons (LW: 6): What do you get when you combine an encouraging series sweep over the Saskatchewan Huskies, and a fairly convincing four set loss on the part of the Western Mustangs? Upwards motion for the Bisons. The bad news? Keeping the mojo going will be an uphill battle with a weekend series against the dominant Golden Bears upcoming.
#8 Thompson Rivers WolfPack (LW: 9): In a pretty clear indication of where CIS voters see conference strength lying, the WolfPack managed to lose consecutive games this weekend, drop their record to 3-7, and still gain a place in the national rankings. They have Queen's to thank for that particular miracle, courtesy a disastrous Saturday loss to Waterloo.
TAKING A TUMBLE:
#6 Western Mustangs (LW: 5): The honeymoon finally came to an end for the Mustangs, who may in truth have been punching above their weight for some time now in the OUA. A healthy McMaster team dealt the purple-clad Londoners a pretty convincing beating on Saturday night. And speaking of Waite, the middle hitter by the name of Matthew was roundly outclassed by his opposite number Tyler Santoni.
#9 Queen's Golden Gaels (LW: 8): Continuing the Ontarian theme, the formerly-golden Gaels also ceded ground in the national rankings thanks to their aforementioned hiccup versus the middle-of-the-table Waterloo Warriors. Joren Zeeman remains one of the most imposing pieces of man-flesh one will find on the left side of a volleyball court, but his supporting cast were surprisingly absent on Saturday. Most grievous? An unusually quiet evening from the typically prominent middle hitter Michael Amoroso (9.5 points on 6 of 17 hitting, with 5 errors).
DOWN AND OUT:
Dalhousie Tigers (LW: 10): One feels for the Tigers, whose only real crime is plying their trade in the volleyball ghost town that is the AUS. It's not often that a team can utterly wipe the floor with their opposition over two matches as Dalhousie did this weekend, and find themselves on the outs. But when the team you're mercilessly handing the beatdown to happens to be the Sea-Hawks, forgive us for being unimpressed.
WELCOME TO THE BIG SHOW:
McMaster Marauders: With their weekend of sweet revenge over the Windsor Lancers and Western Mustangs, the Marauders take their first baby steps back into the CIS limelight. The squad is healthy and riding the high of ruining yet another perfect season in the OUA. And my spidey senses tell me that the Marauders will be staying put for at least another week. Am I psychic? McMaster just doesn't happen to be playing anyone this weekend.
THE GAME YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE MISSED:
UBC @ Calgary: The weekend series between the Dinos and Thunderbirds was such a classic that you can really pick either of their epics to fill this spot. For the sake of being decisive however, I'll stake my claim on the Saturday rematch. Why? Because it was my favourite kind of comeback victory: a grinding, three-set climb back from the precipice. For two sets the Thunderbirds dual towers of power, outsides Ben Chow and Demijan Savija were having it all their own way. That was until someone happened to kick the cryogenic chamber in which Graham Vigrass was slumbering. When big daddy Vigrass decided to throw down, it was all Dinos, and they would romp through the next three sets. Poor Thunderbirds must be wondering what exactly they have to do to seal a victory.
ONE TO WATCH:
Calgary @ Trinity Western: Again, this suggestion is a pick-em. In true Canada West style, the two teams will be rocking a two-game series spanning Friday and Saturday. A wise person would cop a seat (or at worst, a fuzzy SSN feed) to at least one of them. A wiser person would see both. The Calgarians are the obvious bet, what with being undefeated and all, but TWU is riding a serious momentum wave since mopping the floor at their CIS Championship warmup, Spartan Classic tournament. Interestingly enough, the team that the Spartans eventually had to overcome in the final was - you guessed it - the Calgary Dinos. If that's not enough to convince you that Trinity Western is a legitimate threat, they're anchored by the human block party Lucas van Berkel.
THE ABSOLUTELY UNOFFICIAL CALDWELLIAN RANKINGS (CR):
1.) Calgary: The defending CIS Champions remain undefeated through ten games in the shark tank that is Canada West. 'Nuff said.
2.) Alberta: November blip vs. TWU aside, Alberta has been lights out. Their schedule is relatively easy from here on out, until they meet Calgary in the last week.
3.) Trinity Western: The Spartans are a powerful and crazy young squad that remains virtually unchanged from the one that went to the CIS Final a year ago. Watch out.
4.) Laval: Ridiculous lineup. The only knock I have on the Rouge et Or is where they play. Sure you're undefeated, but you're also out East. I will continue to doubt Laval until their inevitable appearance at the CIS Championships proves me wrong.
5.) Western: I preface this by saying that I think both McMaster and Queen's are better teams than the Mustangs. Then why do I have Western at #5 you ask? Consistency friends, consistency. While their OUA rivals have blown hot and cold this season, Western has remained steady, and that's an invaluable quality down the stretch.
6.) McMaster: Is this a product of bias? Maybe. But they're 3rd in RPI, and if I'm lucky, the Marauders will actually decide to stay healthy and stop with the schizophrenia. If they do, they will top the OUA. Mark my words haters.
7.) Brandon: Two words: Paul Sanderson. Without him, the Bobcats are roadkill in the dog-eat-dog Canada West. With him, they remain dangerous. You won't see Brandon in the CIS Championships, but you will see the Australian in a few record books by the end of the year.
8.) Dalhousie: While the Tigers get no love from the CIS voters this week, they remain (somewhere) in my heart. After all, it's not their fault that they play in the AUS. Notwithstanding the cardboard competition, the tandem of Max Burt and Sander Ratsep remains one of the best one-two combinations in Canada.
9.) Queen's: I worry for the Gaels. Or I would if the maroon blood coursing through my veins didn't naturally instruct me to loathe them. But seriously, Queen's is a very talented team with one of the most dangerous left sides in the country to their name. Problem is, a game of volleyball isn't played by one guy.
10.) Thompson Rivers: I really hate including this team here. A 3-7 team should never be anywhere near the Top Ten list. And every indication says that the WolfPack is a one-trick pony. Unfortunately for me, Kevin Tillie is a god-like pony.
* Honourable mention: The UBC Thunderbirds: They just try so damned hard. I want them to succeed. And their outside hitting duo is very promising. But the clock is running out on the team that currently sits smack dab in the middle of the Canada West standings.