In the second-to-last weekend of CIS conference volleyball, the results did much to confirm the established order in both the national and regional rankings. Slip-ups were in store for two teams however, as Trinity Western split their two-game set against the Brandon Bobcats, while the McMaster Marauders suffered a four-set defeat in Guelph on Saturday.
1.) Laval Rouge et Or (1st in RPI)
The Rouge et Or wrapped up their conference season in their usual style on Friday, dealing a three-set sweep to the Sherbrooke Vert et Or. The win closes out a perfect campaign for the Laval outfit, who won all 17 of their RSEQ contests and 22 of 22 overall. Even without one of their two dominating outside veterans, Frederic Desbiens, the Rouge et Or hardly broke a sweat in dismissing their provincial opposition. Middle hitter Frederic Mondou provided the offensive spark, notching 18 points on 15 of 31 hitting.
Next Week: a bye week for Laval as they await the unlucky winner of the RSEQ playoff semi-final between Montreal and Sherbrooke.
2.) Alberta Golden Bears (3rd in RPI)
Alberta once again profited from a weekend series against one of the bottom feeders of the ultra-competitive Canada West, this time feasting on the 1-15 Saskatchewan Huskies. While dismissing their Prairie opponents by way of consecutive sweeps, Alberta got a surprising performance from middle hitter Simon Lidster, who typically plays second fiddle to his more decorated partner Jay Olmstead. Lidster went off for 13.5 points on a superhuman 7 of 9 hitting with 8 combined blocks.
Next Week: @ Calgary on Friday and Saturday (Feb. 11 and 12)
3.) Calgary Dinos (2nd in RPI) and 5.) Manitoba Bisons (9th in RPI)
Calgary provided yet more proof in the dying stages of this season that they are the team to beat in Canada West. Labouring under the weight of a bottom-loaded season, the Dinos made quick work of a stern test in the form of the #5 Manitoba Bisons. Sweeping the Bisons in both of their weekend matches, the Calgarians improved their record to a perfect 16-0 with only a single weekend left in the conference schedule. Key to the victories was Calgary's ability to effectively shut down the outside hitting duo of Dane Pischke and Chris Voth, the latter of whom peaked on Friday with his contribution of 11 points in the series opener.
Next Week: Calgary - vs. Alberta Friday and Saturday (Feb. 11 and 12), Manitoba - @ Trinity Western Friday and Saturday (Feb. 11 and 12)
4.) Trinity Western Spartans (7th in RPI) and 7.) Brandon Bobcats (11th in RPI)
Trinity Western has begun to sputter in the second half, after a rather glorious winter break saw them blaze through a tune-up tournament at home in Langley. Maybe they're still suffering from Boston Pizza's patented 'turkey brain'. Whatever the cause, the Spartans are increasingly struggling against quality opposition. After winning the first of their contests against Brandon this weekend in four sets, they dropped the second in four the next night. Maybe they were just surprised to see someone other than Paul Sanderson scoring. Enter Chris Miller, who put up a game-high of 19 points on 18 of 44 hitting as Sanderson's outside partner.
Next Week: TWU - vs. Manitoba on Friday and Saturday (Feb. 11 and 12), Brandon - @ Winnipeg on Friday and Saturday (Feb. 11 and 12)
6.) Western Mustangs (5th in RPI)
The Kitchener-Waterloo clubs rode through London this weekend and came away with not a single set to show for it. Most impressively, Western dispatched the Waterloo Warriors in straight sets, a team that has recently beaten both of the Mustangs' closest conference rivals. Sophomore outside Matt Poulin starred against Laurier on Friday, tallying 14 points on 10 of 16 hitting. His first-year counterpart and strong candidate for OUA Rookie of the Year honours, Garrett May led the way the following night with 13.5 of his own.
Next Week: @ Toronto on Sunday (Feb. 13)
8.) Queen's Golden Gaels (8th in RPI)
Queen's gained four more points over the course of a two-day tour of the Big Smoke this weekend. The Gaels squeaked past the surprising Ryerson Rams on Saturday in five sets, before sweeping the York Lions the following afternoon. Star outside Joren Zeeman proved the decisive factor in Saturday's thriller, racking up 30 points on 26 of 44 hitting. That was exactly a third of the total offence mustered by the boys in the tri-colour unis. Evidently, Mr. Zeeman was in beast mode.
Next Week: vs. McMaster on Saturday (Feb. 12), vs. Guelph on Sunday (Feb. 13)
9.) Thompson Rivers WolfPack (10th in RPI)
Thompson Rivers was yet another of the Canada West teams that simply did was expected of them this weekend, winning both matches against the struggling Winnipeg Wesmen at home. French import and second-year star Kevin Tillie was back to his dominating ways this weekend, posting 40.5 total points over the course of the seven sets played. The wins mean very little for a TRU team that remains light years behind the rest of the pack (ha!) in Canada West.
Next Week: vs. UBC on Friday and Saturday (Feb. 11 and 12)
10.) McMaster Marauders (4th in RPI)
The longer this season continues, the more it appears that McMaster may be afraid to find themselves inside the CIS Top Ten. Shunned for much of the season, the Marauders have greeted their few entries into the rankings with head-scratching losses. This weekend was no different. After beating the Toronto Varsity Blues at home on Friday night, the maroon and grey dropped a four-set decision on the road to the Guelph Gryphons. Most worrying was the Marauders' passing, which was surpassed by the unranked opponents throughout Saturday's match. Opposing teams may be realizing that McMaster's duo of rookie setters can be effectively leaned on. Troubling signs for those of us holding down the Hammer.
Next Week: @ Queen's on Saturday (Feb. 12), @ RMC on Sunday (Feb. 13)
* As a side note, veteran UBC Thunderbirds libero Blair Bann rewrote the Canada West record books this weekend, breaking the all-time conference record for digs in a single season and surpassing 1,000 digs for his career. The Vancouver Province produced a solid feature on the much-overlooked libero just before the record was broken.