This weekend, the heavy hitters in the CIS men's volleyball hierarchy once again proved their worth, as the top two seeds swept their assignments. Canada West did provide some intrigue however, as the #4 ranked Calgary Dinos dealt their immediate superiors from TWU two consecutive defeats, the second of which came in straight sets. Other wobbles were in store for the Western Mustangs and Brandon Bobcats, with the former dropping a Saturday contest against the Queen's Golden Gaels, while the latter followed a five-set loss to UBC with a convincing Saturday sweep.
#1 Laval Rouge et Or (2nd in RPI)
This weekend was a busy one for the Rouge et Or, as the Laval outfit played three matches in two days. The CIS' leading lights kicked off their weekend with a four-set win over UNB, before clobbering the hapless Memorial Sea-Hawks on Saturday. Just for good measure, Laval polished off a fine weekend with another four set victory, this time over the recently relegated Dalhousie Tigers. As one might expect, All-Canadian outsides Fredric Desbiens and Karl de Grandpre figured prominently in the wins, with the former leading the way with 47.5 points over the course of the three contests. Desbiens was particularly instrumental in the win over Dalhousie, putting up 26.5 points on 25 of 52 hitting.
Next Week: @ Sherbrooke on Friday (Jan. 28), vs. Montreal on Saturday (Jan. 29)
#2 Alberta Golden Bears (1st in RPI)
The Golden Bears remained hot on the heels of the perfect Calgary Dinos with a pair of impressive and hard-fought five-set wins over the Manitoba Bisons this weekend. The Friday contest was particularly close, with the visiting Golden Bears sealing victory by a 15-13 scoreline in the fifth and final set. Alberta's veteran tandem of right-side Spenser Leiske and middle hitter Jay Olmstead led the way in the victories. Olmstead was the most efficient performer on court, converting 38 of 67 attempts over the course of the weekend.
Next Week: @ Winnipeg on Friday and Saturday (Jan. 28 and 29)
#3 Trinity Western (6th in RPI)
After the rest and relaxation of a bye-week, the Spartans fell flat in a critical two-game series against the Calgary Dinos. This weekend presented the opportunity for Trinity Western to make a serious statement in both the Canada West standings, and the CIS rankings. But instead, the Spartans dropped both contests, and will be especially disappointed after losing the second in straight sets. The results drop the Spartans' conference record to 8-4, and with only three weekends left in the season, likely ensure that they finish no better than fourth in Canada West.
Next Week: @ Saskatchewan on Friday and Saturday (Jan. 28 and 29)
#4 Calgary Dinos (4th in RPI)
The Dinos undoubtedly made the loudest statement of any team on the CIS depth-chart this weekend. Making a strong case for a move up the ladder, the Calgarians dealt two crushing defeats to the Trinity Western Spartans, and maintained their perfect Canada West record in the process (currently sitting at 12-0). The ever-present Graham Vigrass dominated Friday's contest, tallying 21.5 points on a stellar 19 of 30 hitting. While Vigrass was pivotal once again on Saturday, it would be fifth-year left side Curtis James that would lead the scoring, notching 14.5 points and converting 12 of 20 hitting attempts.
#5 Manitoba Bisons (9th in RPI)
Facing one of the toughest possible tests that their stacked conference could present them, the Bisons were shut down in consecutive matches by the Alberta Golden Bears. To their credit, the Manitobans pushed both contests to five sets, and got encouraging performances from their outside duo of Dane Pischke and Chris Voth. The former mustered 35.5 points over the span of the two losses, while the latter added 31 of his own. However, the losses move Manitoba's record to 11-3, and see them lag considerably behind the conference pace-setters from Calgary and Alberta.
Next Week: Bye-Week
#6 Western Mustangs (5th in RPI)
After a completely unsurprising beat-down of the OUA doormat RMC Paladins, the Mustangs hit a considerable bump in the road. In a wild, back-and-forth thriller against their OUA and CIS rivals from Queen's on Saturday, Western finally succumbed by a score of 18-16 in the fifth and final set. While it was highly competitive, the Mustangs will be troubled by the fact that they have now dropped 2 of their last three matches, against the toughest opposition that their conference has to offer. After a perfect 13-0 start, Western is beginning to fall back into the reach of the peloton at 14-2.
Next Week: vs. Windsor on Friday (Jan. 28)
#7 Brandon Bobcats (11th in RPI)
The Bobcats enjoyed something of a mixed bag this weekend, as they lost a five-set decision to the UBC Thunderbirds on Friday, before bouncing back emphatically to clinch a straight-set win over the same opposition the next night. As one might have expected, the nation's top hitter Paul Sanderson loomed large in Brandon's weekend split, managing 49.5 points over eight sets of volleyball. Sanderson's typically huge output clinched a massive career landmark for the left side, as he became Canada West's all-time career kills leader after Saturday night's game.
Next Week: @ Regina on Friday and Saturday (Jan. 28 and 29)
#8 Thompson Rivers WolfPack (13th in RPI)
The WolfPack took full advantage of a a weekend set against the lowly Saskatchewan Huskies to add two more wins to their conference record. Having managed only a single win thus far this season, the Huskies have become the favourite opponents of many a hungry Canada West contender. Stepping out from the shadow of the usually prominent Kevin Tillie was outside hitter Casey Knight, who mustered 35.5 points to lead the WolfPack in their two wins. The real test comes next weekend, when Thompson Rivers travels to Calgary to take on the undefeated Dinos.
Next Week: @ Calgary on Friday and Saturday (Jan 28 and 29)
#9 Queen's Golden Gaels (7th in RPI)
The Gaels got back on track in the best possible way after their disastrous loss to Waterloo last weekend, by handing Western a deflating five-set defeat. Besides matching their nemesis, McMaster, in bettering the Mustangs, Queen's also managed to get their previously sputtering offence back on track in the win. Where standout outside Joren Zeeman had been effectively abandoned last weekend, his hitting partner Brian Fautley came up with a gigantic performance on Saturday. Fautley led the Gaels with 22.5 points on an impressive 21 of 40 hitting.
Next Week: vs. Toronto on Friday (Jan. 28)
#10 McMaster Marauders (3rd in RPI)
Nothing to report on the Marauders' front, as the maroon and grey enjoyed a bye-week this weekend. Great timing for the stint of R & R, coming as it did after the Marauders' classic four-set victory at home against Western last weekend.
Next Week: vs. York on Friday (Jan. 28), vs. Ryerson on Saturday (Jan. 29)