With the last weekend of conference play in the CIS volleyball season now behind us, we bring you our final edition of this year's Top Ten Tracker.
The final weekend of CIS volleyball has come and past, and the masterminds behind the various conference schedules left several intriguing match ups to be decided on the occasion. That promising slate of games did not disappoint, and instead served to deal a final shake to the national hierarchy before the onset of the knockout rounds.
#1 Laval Rouge et Or (1st in RPI entering the weekend)
No action to speak of on the part of the undefeated men in the red and gold unis. For their conference heroism, the Rouge et Or were rewarded with a rare bye weekend, as they watched Sherbrooke and Montreal fight tooth and nail (3-2, 3-2 for the Vert et Or) for the privilege of losing to them. Of course, just getting to the Big Show against Laval guarantees Sherbrooke a spot in Langley in a couple weeks (don't get me started on that one).
Next Week: RSEQ Final (Best 2 of 3) - Game One: Friday at Laval (Jan. 18), Game Two: Sunday at Sherbrooke (Jan. 20), Game Three (if necessary): Friday, Jan. 25 at Laval.
#2 Alberta Golden Bears (3rd in RPI) and #3 Calgary Dinos (2nd in RPI)
In perhaps the best scenario one could draw up for the final weekend of conference play, the Canada West leading Dinos and Golden Bears met to decide the top dog in that premier kennel over the course of two matches. In the first, Alberta would snap Calgary's perfect season with a five-set victory on Friday night. As one would expect, the Golden Bears were paced by efficient performances from stars Jay Olmstead and Spencer Leiske, who managed 16 and 15.5 points respectively. The following night, the visitors would clinch an even more emphatic victory and lock down the first seed in Canada West in the process. Alberta swept the previously untouchable Dinos in three, and validated the choices of many a CIS voter who had steadfastly chosen them as the superior squad throughout the season.
Next Week: Alberta - bye week, Calgary - Quarterfinal vs. UBC (Best 2 of 3): Thursday, Friday, Saturday (if necessary) (Jan. 17-19)
#4 Trinity Western Spartans (7th in RPI) and #5 Manitoba Bisons (9th in RPI)
This weekend provided further proof that the Bisons remain outside the top echelon of Canada West, and gave crucial reinforcement to the Spartans on the eve of the playoffs. TWU knocked off their Manitoban visitors in four sets on Friday, before bringing out the brooms on Saturday. Manitoba's prolific left side Chris Voth enjoyed a strong weekend, but the same could not be said of his usual partner in crime, Dane Pischke. While Voth chipped in 35.5 combined points over the course of the weekend, Pischke managed only a paltry 16 and never entered double digits. On the other side of the net, TWU's middle phenom Rudy Verhoeff enjoyed the lion's share of the Spartan service and made the best of it, notching 40.5 total points. The results make things considerably easier for the squad in blue come the quarterfinals, as they face a series against the WolfPack, while Manitoba must confront Paul Sanderson's Brandon Bobcats.
Next Week: TWU - vs. Thompson Rivers on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (if necessary) (Feb. 17-19), Manitoba - vs. Brandon on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (if necessary) (Feb. 18-20)
#6 Western Mustangs (5th in RPI)
A quiet weekend for the Mustangs to wrap up their season - or at least it was until their bus caught on fire. Luckily for Western, not only did they blitz the Toronto Varsity Blues in straight sets to close out their season, but they escaped any sort of injury in said fire. Scary stuff, and let's hope that none of the Mustangs are believers in omens. Back on court, Western earns the privilege of occupying the provincial sidelines for the OUA's quarterfinal round after locking down the conference. Ontario silverware will have to be earned in Alumni Hall this year.
Next Week: Bye week
#7 Brandon Bobcats (11th in RPI)
The Bobcats had one of the easier assignments in their final weekend of matches, playing a double feature against the basement dwelling Winnipeg Wesmen. Canada's top hitter, Paul Sanderson, was typically dominant as Brandon eased past their fellow Manitobans while dropping only a single set. However, even more impressive was the performance of Sanderson's hitting partner on Saturday night. Right side Kevin Miller went on a proper rampage in the second meeting of the series, posting up 26.5 points on 25 of 38 hitting for an absolutely filthy percentage of .632. At that sort of clip, the Wesmen's busted defenders may want to invest in rape whistles.
Next Week: @ Manitoba on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (Feb. 18-20)
#8 Queen's Golden Gaels (8th in RPI) and #10 Guelph Gryphons (6th in RPI)
Queen's faced an extremely tough weekend to close out their season, and could not emerge unscathed despite their best efforts. With tilts against immediate rivals McMaster and Guelph at home in consecutive days, the Gaels had no easy task ahead of them. They would slip up at the first hurdle, dropping a heartbreaking five-set decision to the Marauders on Saturday in the single best volleyball match that yours truly has had the pleasure of attending. Joren Zeeman continued to be immense, but his contributions were not enough to salvage a win for the Gaels against a tough and balanced Marauders side that enjoyed a breakout game from third-year middle Michael Sjonnesen. Of course, after that deflating loss, Queen's was understandably infuriated, and proceeded to thrash the poor Gryphons in straight sets the next day. Bad timing personified for the Gryphs.
Next Week: Queen's - vs. Waterloo on Friday (Feb. 19), Guelph - vs. Windsor on Friday (Feb. 19)
#9 Thompson Rivers Wolfpack (10th in RPI)
TRU finished their conference schedule on a high, dealing consecutive defeats to their mid-table neighbours from UBC. Friday's opener went the distance, with the WolfPack edging it in five with the help of a 27.5 point performance from sophomore Kevin Tillie. The following night was much more straightforward, as the shell-shocked Thunderbirds would not notch a single set. Their reward? A quarterfinal series against the recently spurned Calgary Dinos. Somehow, I would not want to be the team that had to face Graham Vigrass and co. after their beating at the hands of the Golden Bears. In the words of Michael Schiavello, that's 'Goodnight Irene'.
Next Week: @ TWU on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (Feb. 17-19).