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:
#3 Calgary Dinos (LW: 4): Facing one of the toughest tests of their season, the Dinos wiped the floor with the Trinity Western Spartans over the course of two crucial road contests this past weekend. Calgary dropped only a single set in the process, and the Dinos have solidified their spot atop the Canada West standings with a perfect record of 12-0. The sledding won't get any easier for Calgary though, who face series against Thompson Rivers (#9), Manitoba (#5), and Alberta (#2) to close out their conference season.
#8 Queen's Golden Gaels (LW: 9): The Gaels understandably move up the rankings this week, thanks to a hard-fought five-set win over the Western Mustangs in London on Saturday. Encouragingly for Queen's, they managed to find points from players not named Joren Zeeman. An impressive performance from Zeeman's outside partner Brian Fautley led the Gaels' scoring charts, and proved just enough to topple the team in purple.
TAKING A TUMBLE:
#4 Trinity Western Spartans (LW: 3): TWU experiences a minor slide this week, after failing to take a match off of the conference-leading Calgary Dinos this past weekend. The Spartans remain a force to be reckoned with in Canada West, but they will be disheartened by the comprehensive nature of their losses to the Dinos. If they are to challenge at the rapidly-approaching end-of-season festivities, TWU has much work left to do.
#9 Thompson Rivers WolfPack (LW: 8): Thompson Rivers' tumble this week is yet another case in which it matters less that you've won, and much more who you've beaten. Despite winning both of their games this past weekend, the WolfPack has been leapfrogged in the CIS rankings by Queen's. Why is this? Because while Queen's was busy squeaking past the OUA leading Mustangs, TRU was handing consecutive beatings to the Canada West bottom-feeders from Saskatchewan. They'll get their opportunity to claim a more high profile scalp this weekend, when the WolfPack visit the Dinos in Calgary.
THE GAME YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE MISSED:
Queen's @ Western: I could very easily have given this distinction to any number of Canada West nail-biters. Alberta's two-point fifth set thriller over the Manitoba Bisons on Friday night stands out as perhaps the best of these. But in the interest of switching things up, I'll focus on the biggest contest from the OUA this past weekend. Queen's came into their crucial match with Western needing a definite pick-me-up. They had just dropped a match to the middle-of-the-road Waterloo Warriors the week before, and looked rather bad in doing so. But on Saturday, the Gaels would fire on all cylinders, riding the hitting prowess of Joren Zeeman and Brian Fautley, and the creative force of setter Dan Rosenbaum, to a much-needed five set win. The result vaults Queen's back into the OUA discussion, and casts further question on whether Western can beat its closest competitors in Ontario.
ONE TO WATCH:
Thompson Rivers @ Calgary: I really don't like picking Calgary again (or talking about the Dinos again in any capacity come to think of it), but in a relatively uneventful week of matches, the two-game series between the Calgarians and TRU is the undisputed highlight. The consecutive road games against the best in Canada West present a huge opportunity for the WolfPack to prove doubters (such as myself) wrong, and propel themselves past the Brandon Bobcats into fifth position in the conference. For Calgary, the series provides the chance to further consolidate their place at the head of the division, and stretch their 12-game winning streak in the process. Thompson Rivers will be hungry, but my money is on the Dinos to continue their winning ways.
THE ABSOLUTELY UNOFFICIAL CALDWELLIAN RANKINGS:
1.) Calgary: I picked them as head of the class last week, and if anything, they've only shown themselves to be even better. 12-0 and still rolling.
2.) Alberta: Two tough, five-set wins over a sterling opponent like the Bisons is further proof that the Golden Bears are the real deal. Circle their season-ending series with the Dinos on your calendars sports fans.
3.) Laval: The Rouge et Or cemented three more wins this past weekend, one of which actually came against a tough opponent: the Dalhousie Tigers. That four-set decision is the most competitive volleyball Laval can hope to play in their conference. I'll say it again: amazing squad, but don't be surprised if they flop in Langley at the end of the season.
4.) Trinity Western: For all the love I show them, the Spartans go out and eke out only a single set against the Dinos this past weekend. Thanks a lot. Seriously though, the Spartans possess a wealth of talent and promise, but will need to be better down the stretch if they are to shine on home turf at the CIS Championships.
5.) McMaster: The Marauders make it to number five without doing a thing. That's because Western - the team I lauded just last week for their consistency - have begun to show another kind of pattern. An inability to beat the best in their division.
6.) Manitoba: I entirely forgot the Bisons in my mock rankings a week ago. This perhaps is why I remain less than a real journalist. Manitoba put up an admirable fight against Alberta this past weekend, and the Bisons' heavy-hitting duo of Dane Pischke and Chris Voth remain a formidable proposition for any squad. I only wonder if they can hope to overcome Canada West's best when the time comes.
7.) Queen's: The Gaels did much to dispel my worries this past weekend. Not only did they dispatch the Mustangs, but they managed to find the scoring touch that had so alarmingly left them, even if only for a moment. Their last weekend clash with McMaster will be a classic, and should go a long way to determining the OUA's front-runner leading up to the playoff turkey shoot.
8.) Brandon: The Bobcats rebounded nicely to sweep the Thunderbirds on Saturday night, while Paul Sanderson locked down a little bit of history. He became Canada West's all-time career kills leader. Bravo big man.
9.) Thompson Rivers: I'm still not entirely convinced by the WolfPack, but the fact that someone other than Kevin Tilley managed to score some points is a promising sign. Big test upcoming for TRU though, as Calgary is looking deadly.
10.) Dalhousie: Oh the Tigers. The poor buggers are shunted off of the Top Ten last week after consecutive losses, only to actually drop a contest this weekend against the Rouge et Or. But while Laval came out on top, it was by no means an easy feat, as three of the match's four sets went to extra points. Besides, by the standards of their conference, the Tigers should probably be given a medal just for taking a set off their Quebecois opponents.