Very little changed in the national Top 10 this week, but we'll look at where the change did occur and tee-up the sixth week of CIS men's volleyball.
The Calgary Dinos are unsurprisingly the chief victims of this week's revisions to the national Top 10, having endured another lackluster weekend and remained at .500 on the year. The beneficiaries are Laval and UBC, who each edge forward a spot at Calgary's expense.
The Top 10 can be found here, while the RPI is here
#6 Calgary Dinos (4-4) (13th in RPI) - previous #4
The Dinos' inconsistent start to the 2011-12 season continued this past weekend against the Brandon Bobcats, and the most recent iteration of the CIS Top 10 made note of those struggles. Dropping the second of their matches against the Bobcats on Saturday, Calgary returned to .500 and served up another painful reminder that they remain light years away from the pace set by Canada West's top squads. Most worrying is the reduced production of reigning CIS MVP Graham Vigrass, and the flat out failure of outside Allen Meek to make the most of his new found offensive reps.
On the Ups
#4 Laval Rouge et Or (6-0) (5th in RPI) - previous #5
The Quebecois kingpins reap the benefits of Calgary's Saturday slip-up and nudge up a place in the rankings after suitably stomping the Montreal Carabins on the road. It's been business as usual for the Rouge et Or thus far in 2011, and it's tough to see where any real challenge lies for Laval.
#5 UBC Thunderbirds (5-1) (7th in RPI) - previously #6
Much like the Rouge et Or, the Thunderbirds ascend the rankings this week at the expense of the Dinos. UBC notched consecutive four-set wins against the Saskatchewan Huskies, and showed off some offensive balance in the process. With a lauded rookie class in hand, the Thunderbirds have given significant playing time to first-years such as setter Milan Nikic and have not suffered as a result. The future looks bright on the west coast.
One to Watch
#5 UBC Thunderbirds vs. #6 Calgary Dinos - Nov. 25 and Nov. 26
This series should be a perfect mid-season indication of just how far the Dinos have fallen from their division-leading form of a year ago. I believe that the rankings accurately portray two squads that are playing at very similar levels, and these two matches should each be extended and hard-fought affairs. Personally, my money lies with the Thunderbirds, who will benefit from home court advantage, and appear much more settled at this stage than their Albertan rivals.
The Entirely Unofficial Caldwellian Rankings (CR)
1) Trinity Western - The Spartans just keep rolling and there's no real reason to suspect that roll to stop any time soon. UBCO will pose an interesting challenge this weekend but should ultimately be overwhelmed by the T-dub machine.
2) Manitoba - The Bisons have the best record in Canada West and have been playing a balanced brand of volleyball that should stand them in good stead against the division's toughest teams. One such squad is on the immediate horizon in Alberta.
3) Alberta - The Golden Bears have yet to break, but they have bent. Whether Alberta can remain unbeaten in the absence of Jay Olmstead and with the Bisons upcoming remains to be seen. Mitch Irvine may have a little too much to do this weekend.
4) UBC - The Thunderbirds are a team in transition that is hardly playing like it. Players young and old are chipping in and UBC looks like a legitimate gatekeeper in Canada West. Games against Calgary this weekend will determine their viability in that role.
5) Laval - What is there really to say about Laval? The winning continues in the sea of minnows that is the RSEQ-AUS crossover zone. The real test as usual will have to wait for March. Meanwhile Karl de Grandpre will continue to eat Quebecois blockers for breakfast.
6) Western - The Mustangs emerged as the most battle-ready outfit in Ontario this season, as they did last year. The steady play has vaulted them above provincial rivals and may well keep them there.
7) Calgary - Oh how the mighty have fallen. The Dinos look like a shadow of the team that set the pace in Canada West last year, but fortunately for them, that shadow is still exceptionally dangerous. Vigrass and Meek must be better, while Levi Nutma has shown flashes of brilliance. But how many more losses can the Dinos endure?
8) UBC Okanagan - The great unknown in the CIS is enjoying its first year of university-level play this season. I will be having a close look at their match ups with Trinity Western this weekend, but thus far, the results speak for themselves for UBCO.
9) Thompson Rivers - How Brandon and Saskatchewan garner rankings while the similarly 1-7 Wolfpack do not is a bit of a head-scratcher. TRU's young lineup has suffered from an exceedingly tough early schedule, but nonetheless managed a sweep against the Dinos in their opening weekend. Winnipeg provides the ideal opportunity for a bounce-back.
10) McMaster - The Marauders are banged up and playing inexperienced hitters an awful lot, but the talent is obvious amongst the blemishes. A stirring five-set win at Queen's will have done wonders for the Maroon and Grey's collective confidence.