With the Christmas break nearly upon us, we break down the results of the fifth week of CIS men's volleyball.
This past weekend saw very little in the way of surprises, as most of the premier squads in the nation met expectations and dispatched lesser teams. The glaring exception to that generalization was provided by the Brandon Bobcats, who dealt a four-set defeat to the Calgary Dinos on Nov. 19.
The Swing of the Week: Windsor (2) vs. Western (3) - Nov. 18
This week we debut a feature that combines the long-winded narrative talents of yours truly with the mathematical wizardry of this blog's benevolent dictator Rob Pettapiece. For every week-ending edition of this column, we will pinpoint the most influential passage of play in a selected CIS match and explain how one team effectively swung momentum in their favour.
For this inaugural edition, we visit Windsor, where the Lancers were locked in a five-set struggle with the OUA-leading Western Mustangs on Nov. 18. Having traded sets throughout the Friday contest, the two teams were tied at 11 in the deciding frame when the Mustangs made a decisive breakthrough.
The catalyst for Western's streak would be middle Matt Waite, who powered his squad into the lead with a kill before blocking Windsor's Jimmy El-Turk to move the Mustangs to within two points of victory at 13-11. The Lancers called a timeout to regroup, but would only see the gap widen when Alan Screaton added a kill of his own. Fittingly, it would be Waite and Screaton to provide the winning combo block at 14-11 and complete a vital last-ditch push for Western. With the late momentum shift, the Mustangs maintained their perfect start to the season, and dealt a heartbreaking loss to their regional rivals.
Overall, it was a swing of 50 percentage points of win probability, as Western went from being a 50-50 shot to win at 11-11, to winning it all four points later.
Recapping the Top-Ten
#1 Trinity Western Spartans (6-0)
TWU continued its unblemished start to the 2011-12 season with two more fairly routine wins against the Regina Cougars at home in Langley (3-0, 3-1). Particularly impressive was the performance of third-year middle blocker Lucas van Berkel in the first match on Nov. 18. Usually noted for his defensive prowess, van Berkel led his team on the score sheet with 10.5 points and hit for a super-efficient .625 hitting percentage (6 of 8 with an error).
#2 Alberta Golden Bears (6-0)
Alberta kept pace with the Bisons and Spartans atop the Canada West standings by notching consecutive wins at home against Winnipeg (3-1, 3-0). In the absence of influential left-side Jay Olmstead, who was injured a week ago, right-side Mitch Irvine exploded offensively over the course of the weekend. Irvine followed up a 29-point effort on Nov. 18 with 18.5 the next night, as he enjoys the greatest share of the distribution on offence.
#3 Manitoba Bisons (8-0)
The Bisons continue to set the bar in Canada West, and they proved their quality once again this past weekend with two wins against the always-dangerous Thompson Rivers Wolfpack (3-2, 3-1). Manitoba's outside hitting duo of Dane Pischke and Chris Voth took turns leading the charge over the two-game set. In the five-set triumph on Nov. 18, it was the former doing the damage, with 19.5 points on 16 of 38 hitting (.342). The next night, Voth carried the offensive burden and notched 22 points, going 19 of 40 hitting in the process (.350).
#4 Calgary Dinos (4-4)
The Calgary Dinos continue to struggle against the tougher outfits in their conference, and remained a .500 squad after splitting their weekend matches at home against the Brandon Bobcats (3-1, 1-3). Left-side Levi Nutma was hugely influential in Calgary's Friday night win, connecting with 16 of his 22 attempts for a ridiculous hitting percentage of .727. However, in the Saturday rematch, Nutma was held to just .080 while his outside partner Allen Meek went into negative figures with 8 errors and only 7 kills on 24 attempts.
#5 Laval Rouge et Or (6-0)
The Rouge et Or remain unbeaten in Quebec since the last Ice Age, after dealing a straight-set beatdown to the Montreal Carabins on the road. Karl de Grandpre once again put up dominating numbers (this is not a recording), notching a game-high 9 points on 7 of 15 hitting (.400).
#6 UBC Thunderbirds (5-1)
UBC kept itself within striking distance of Canada West's big guns after notching two consecutive victories against Saskatchewan (3-1, 3-1). In the Nov. 18 weekend opener, sophomore outside David Zeyha paced the Thunderbirds' attack with 23.5 points, converting 21 of 35 attempts in the process. The next night, UBC's veterans took over, with fifth-year outside Robert Bennett notching a game-high 17 points.
#7 Western Mustangs (7-0)
The perfect season was very nearly ruined for the Mustangs, as they narrowly eked out a five-set win in the titanic match mentioned earlier against Windsor. Middle Matt Waite poured in a game-high of 21 points on 16 of 24 hitting and 6 combined blocks (2 solo, 4 assists) in the Friday night contest.
#8 Brandon Bobcats (2-6)
The Bobcats grabbed their second win of the season by claiming the high-profile scalp of the Calgary Dinos on Saturday night. Middle hitter Jonathan Sloane shouldered the offensive load for Brandon in the victory, connecting on 17 of his 29 hitting attempts (.483) and tallying a game-high of 21.5 points.
#9 UBC Okanagan (3-3)
No news on the Heat front this week, as the UBCO outfit enjoyed a bye this past weekend.
#10 Saskatchewan Huskies (1-7)
Two more losses wracked up for the Huskies this past weekend at the hands of UBC, and that will likely spell the end of their short and inconspicuous time in the CIS Top-Ten. The Huskies have threatened to do damage this year (just ask the Golden Bears), but have failed to see the results thus far.