Men's Volleyball: Top 10 Tracker - A Tale of Two Halves

A strange weekend in CIS men's volleyball saw upsets reign supreme on Friday night, before order was restored to the chaos on Saturday. The theatrics should cause a shake-up of sorts in Tuesday's fresh rankings, and when they come we'll break down how it all happened.

You Shouldn't Have Missed: #2 Manitoba (3) vs. #1 Trinity Western (0) - Friday, Jan. 27

Friday night's opening tilt between the hosting Manitoba Bisons and the Canada West pace-setters from Trinity Western was a true head-scratcher. In a weekend chalked full of bagels, perhaps the most intriguing of those was dealt on Friday, when the Bisons — who had been playing second fiddle to the Spartans in both the CW and national rankings for months — brought out the brooms at the expense of the defending national champions.

The statistical story is telling. Despite losing the match in three sets with none-too-flattering totals (21, 19 and 17) to their name, the Spartans notched more points scored (50.5-46.5), kills (42-37), and total blocks (17-11) than their opponents. So how did the mighty Spartans manage to throw the match away? The answer lies in the error totals across the board. Trinity Western racked up more than double the number of hitting errors committed by Manitoba (23-10) and suffered eight more service errors than the Bisons as well (11-3). Dan Janssen van Doorn alone eclipsed the Manitoban outfit's mistake total from the stripe with four. It's fitting then, that the match was decided by a botched serve from the Spartans' Derek Thiessen

How the Top Teams Fared

#1 Trinity Western Spartans (15-1) and #2 Manitoba Bisons (14-2)

If Friday night found the Spartans on sloppy form, it was very quickly raised in response. The follow-up contest on Saturday saw Trinity Western scrape past the Bisons in three consecutive, closely-fought sets (28-26, 26-24, 25-22). The difference? The Spartans managed to greatly trim down their error totals, and played a cleaner attacking game than their opponents. His team's erratic play from the service line might still be a concern for coach Ben Josephson (the Spartans committed 14 service errors), but the Saturday victory was an encouraging bounce-back effort from the defending champions nonetheless.

#3 Laval Rouge et Or (15-0)

The march goes on for the Quebecois powerhouse, as the Rouge et Or notched another convincing victory on Friday. This one came against Sherbrooke and it came with a bagel, as Laval once again reminded everyone that they are the only team worth mentioning in Quebec. Outside hitter Karl de Grandpre was his usual godlike self in tallying 21 points in the victory, going 15 of 28 from the floor (.429) and dropping in five aces for good measure. Next!

#4 Alberta Golden Bears (12-4) and #7 Calgary Dinos (9-7)

I actually managed to watch a few rallies in the Saturday edition of this one — camped around a dying laptop with a choppy feed while a McMaster team bus rocketed toward Windsor. Those few sample points led to some groundbreaking realizations on the part of myself and some select members of the Marauder entourage. 1.) Ivan Kartev is a big dude. 2.) Said big dude couldn't jump to save his life.

With these revelations in mind, it's safe to say that my view of the match up was not a good one. However, as the statistics and the box score can tell you, the usual suspects in outsides Jay Olmstead and Mitch Irvine pulled the Golden Bears past the Dinos on consecutive nights. Olmstead put up 20.5 points on 18 of 29 hitting (.552) in Friday night's four-set opener, while the team as a whole hit for an efficient .380 (51-100).

Saturday's second half of the weekend series was a tighter affair, but was once again won through the attacking contributions of Olmstead and Irvine. The former led the match with 18.5 points on 16 of 37 from the floor (.297) while the latter chipped in 13 on 11 of 27.

#5 UBC Thunderbirds (9-7) and #10 Winnipeg Wesmen (7-11)

The Thunderbirds were the second of the upper-echelon teams that suffered a shock defeat on Friday night. Visiting the Winnipeg Wesmen, UBC's offense was anemic to say the least. The Thunderbirds hit for a collective zero as a unit, committing 24 errors to cancel out their 24 kills. Jarrid Ireland was UBC's top point producer on the night, but hit a paltry 7 of 30 and tossed in 5 errors (.067). Winnipeg's numbers — while hardly astounding — were steady enough to earn them the win. Nathaniel Therrien led the Wesmen with 12.5 points in the Friday victory, finishing 10 of 26 from the floor with 4 errors (.231).

As was the case with the Spartans, the Thunderbirds recovered well from a Friday slip-up to record a win in the second half of their weekend series. Outsides David Zeyha and Robert Bennett — who had been conspicuously quiet in the loss of the previous night — bounced back with efficient offensive outputs in Saturday's sweep of the Wesmen. Zeyha led all scorers with 15 points on 12 of 31 hitting and 4 errors (.258), while Bennett chipped in 14.5 of his own on an impressive 12 of 25 with 2 errors (.400).

#6 Western Mustangs (15-1)

While a few other top 10 teams were busy gifting points to conference rivals, the Mustangs enjoyed a statement weekend and reasserted their dominance in the OUA. Saturday saw the visit of the McMaster Marauders to Alumni Hall, where Western dealt out a crushing defeat to their fiercest competitors. The Mustangs were in control throughout the straight-set victory, and outside Matt Poulin in particular was on top form. Poulin dropped 18.5 points on McMaster in the short space of three sets, going 12 of 26 from the floor (.385) and pumping 3 aces past the Maroon and Grey.

As if that were not enough, the Mustangs were back in action on Sunday to put the studs to the York Lions — who never tallied more than 17 points in a set over the course of the sweep. The wins make Western's position at the head of the conference all but certain at this stage.

#8 Brandon Bobcats (9-7)

No news to report on the Bobcats' front, as the Manitoban team enjoyed a bye week this time around. Next up for the Bobcats: a trip to UBC this weekend and an opportunity to separate themselves from Canada West's logjam of 9-7 clubs.

#9 McMaster Marauders (12-3)

Having been at Alumni Hall on Saturday night, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that the Marauders' loss to the Mustangs was their most sobering result of the season. McMaster was quite simply outclassed in every facet of the match, and had only one possible glimmer of hope in the entire contest — coming in a tight second set. The box score is a fair reflection of the difference in quality between Ontario's top two teams on the basis of Saturday's evidence.

Much like several of the other teams on this list that endured a Friday night hardship however, McMaster bounced back strongly to cruise past the Windsor Lancers in straight sets. The Lancers continue to be a paper giant, and look completely unable to compete with the best in the OUA.
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  1. No mention that Calgary had Vigrass setting? Impressive that they even won a set!

  2. Saw the assist total beside his name. Figured my brain was fried after 4 hours aboard a bus from Windsor. Desperate times in the Big C.

  3. Also, I still think that you're crazy.

  4. Indeed! I think the SRS numbers are very telling right now. They have the top 10 almost perfectly in my humble estimation. I may be crazy, but at least math has my back!