Alberta and Laval score upsets to advance to semifinals at CIS Nationals in women’s volleyball

EDMONTON – The University of Alberta Pandas and the Université Laval Rouge et Or earned upset victories on Friday to open the CIS Nationals in women’s volleyball. 

The seventh-seed Pandas capitalized on home court advantage to shock the number-two Université de Montréal Carabins 25-20, 25-18, 25-23. It was the first loss this season for the Carabins which went 22-0 in regular season and playoff action in the Quebec Conference.

Sophomore Krista Zubick led the Pandas attack with 20 points while fifth-year veteran Tiffany Proudfoot added 17. Laetitia Tchoualak earned 12 points for Montreal.

“What weaw tonight were players who want to play and thrive in a pressure environment,” said Alberta head coach Laurie Eisler. “They are not afraid of being in that pressure cooker, and that’s when they bring their best game.”

With the victory, the Pandas advance to the national semifinal against another undefeated squad, the now 23-0 UBC Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds continued to steamroll through their opposition this time beating St. Mary’s 25-17, 25-17, 25-13.

Sophomore outside hitter Shanice Marcelle led UBC with 12 kills while fifth-year Liz Cordonier, named CIS player of the year on Thursday, recorded nine kills, one ace, five digs and two solo blocks.

“The first two sets were close, but I liked that we were making errors of commission,” said Mike Reimer, named CIS coach of the year for a record fifth time this season. “We were really going for it both serving and attacking so we might have missed a few too many but it was aggressive which is what you want.”

There was another upset on Friday as ninth-seed Université Laval Rouge et Or knocked off the fifth ranked Regina Cougars 25-21, 25-21, 25-19. The Rouge et Or’s next opponent is the number-three University of Manitoba Bisons for its semifinal. Manitoba defeated the sixth-ranked University of Toronto Varsity Blues 25-21, 25-20, 25-19.

National team member Mélanie Savoie of St-Slyvestre, Que., led the Rouge et Or, with 12 kills, three aces and 14 digs.  Middle Karine Ducharme added eight kills and a .540 attack percentage.

“Mélanie’s our captain, and she led us today,” said Rouge et Or coach Alain Pelletier. “She made really good reads today, and made really strong decisions.”

Tricia Mayba led the Bisons attack with 12 kills while first team all-Canadian and national team member Ashley Voth, added nine kills. Heather Bansley, the OUA player of the year, notched 13 kills and 10 digs. She led the CIS this season in kills per set and aces. 

“Emotionally, I thought we were pretty jumpy in that game, and a big part of this tournament, is overcoming that despite it not being your best day,” said Ken Bentley, Manitoba’s 24-year head coach and a two-time CIS coach of the year.

It is the ninth straight year, an Ontario team has not won a first round match at nationals and also the ninth straight season, there are two Canada West teams in the semifinals. Both semis go Saturday.

Men’s playoffs

In the Quebec conference men’s volleyball final, the Laval Rouge et Or wrapped up a perfect season defeating the host Université de Montréal Carabins 25-18, 25-22, 25-15 to win the best of three final 2-0. The Rouge et Or head to the CIS Nationals ranked number-one in Canada and with a 20-0 record.

There were a couple of incredible matches at McMaster University in Hamilton, as both Guelph and Queen’s overcame 0-2 deficits to win their matches in five games. Guelph defeated McMaster 16-25, 25-27, 25-15, 25-21, 15-8 while Queen’s took Western 26-28, 16-25, 25-23, 25-22, 15-12. The Guelph-Queen’s final is tonight at 7 p.m.

The Canada West Final Four tournament gets underway today at the University of Alberta in Edmonton featuring Trinity Western University, the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta and Thompson River University.