Preview: 2011 CIS men’s volleyball championship


March 1, 2011

OTTAWA (CIS) – A foursome of Canada West teams, including the reigning national champion Calgary Dinos and the tournament host Trinity Western Spartans, will be looking to resume their conference’s domination of Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s volleyball this weekend in Langley, B.C.

Championship website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/mvball

The 2011 CIS championship, hosted for the first time by Trinity Western University, kicks off Friday with the quarter-final round and culminates Sunday at 6 p.m. Pacific Time with the gold-medal final. SSN Canada will have live webcasts of all 11 matches from the eight-team tournament.

The Dinos, fresh off a pair of dramatic five-set wins over the Spartans (semifinal) and the Brandon Bobcats (final) at the Canada West Final Four, earned the No. 1 seed for the CIS tourney, while Brandon and TWU landed the No. 3 and No. 4 spots, respectively.

Rounding out the seeding are the No. 2 Laval Rouge et Or (Quebec champions), No. 5 Alberta Golden Bears (Canada West fourth-place finishers), No. 6 McMaster Marauders (OUA champions), No. 7 New Brunswick Varsity Reds (AUS champions), and No. 8 Sherbrooke Vert & Or (Quebec finalists).

Top-ranked Calgary opens its title defence against Sherbrooke Friday at 8 p.m. PT in the last quarter-final duel. The other first-round match-ups will see Laval battle UNB at 1 p.m., Brandon face McMaster at 3 p.m., and Trinity Western square off against Alberta at 6 p.m.

The Canada West domination of CIS men’s volleyball is well-documented.

Since Laval claimed its third Tantramar Trophy in five seasons back in 1994, teams currently competing in the CWUAA (including schools from the now defunct Great Plains conference) have won 16 consecutive national titles. In fact, since Sherbrooke captured its lone banner in 1975, the Tantramar Trophy has been hoisted by Western teams 32 times in 35 years.

Eight of the last nine CIS finals have been contested between Canada West schools, with the exception being a straight-set Alberta win over Laval in 2009. Over the same period, the CWUAA has swept the national podium eight times and has even taken the top four spots in the final standings on four occasions.

“The historical results speak for themselves. You can’t argue with what this conference has been able to do over the past several years,” says Calgary head coach Rod Durrant. “The Canada West conference prepares teams to play at a high level every weekend, and that helps us when we get to the national championship.”

“This said, there are several teams that could win it this weekend,” continues the reigning Canada West coach of the year. “All four Canada West teams are extremely good, as we saw from the results at the Final Four, while Laval is a very solid team, McMaster has a sound lineup, and UNB and Sherbrooke both earned the right to be here as well and will be tough opponents in the first round for us and Laval.”

Durrant’s Dinos have put an end to a pair of 17-year droughts over the past 12 months. After claiming their first CIS title since 1993 last March in Kamloops, B.C., with a four-set win over Trinity Western, they won their first Canada West banner since 1994 last Saturday.

Calgary enters this weekend’s tournament with a 28-9 overall record including a 27-7 mark against CIS opponents.

“I don’t believe we’re under any extra pressure this weekend at all. Our guys have been under pressure all year and have handled it tremendously,” says Durrant. “Every team we played this year knew we were national champs, and every time we’ve responded the right way. We’ve stayed in the moment and taken things point-by-point, and because of that we’ve been able to achieve what we wanted to: get back to the national championship.”

“I do believe our guys will be able to draw on last year, but they’ll also draw from the experience last week at the Final Four. Both matches went to five, and I believe they will expect every match to be hard-fought. We’ve approached every match this year the same way – you have to earn their points, and you can’t give the other team easy points. When we maintain that same approach we’ll have the opportunity to be successful.”

Laval once again looks like the main threat from outside Canada West this season. Crowned Quebec champion 27 times over the last 30 years, the Rouge et Or just haven’t been able to translate their conference success to the national scene of late.

The perennial contenders from Quebec City, who settled for fourth place as the No. 1 seed at last year’s CIS tourney, are enjoying another remarkable campaign in 2010-11. Laval, which rolled over Sherbrooke in the RSEQ final with a pair of 3-0 wins, has an unblemished 24-0 overall mark against CIS rivals going into the weekend, including three interlock victories over first-round opponent UNB.

“Being seeded first or second doesn’t change the fact that our main objective is always to win the national championship,” says head coach Pascal Clément, who guided Laval to its last CIS triumph in 1994. “Because of the caliber of the teams at the event, the initial ranking doesn’t mean much. The only thing that counts is to win it all.”

“Unifying four provinces a few years back has allowed Canada West to form a very competitive conference. It’s up to us to put an end to their domination.”

Third-seeded Brandon, in only its sixth year of CIS men’s volleyball, made the most of its lone previous appearance at the Nationals in 2009 with a bronze-medal finish. The Bobcats placed fourth in the CWUAA this season with a 10-8 record but upset first-place Alberta in the first-round of the Final Four before giving Calgary a scare in the final.

Fourth-ranked Trinity Western hopes home field will be an advantage this weekend. A year ago, when they were also the No. 4 seed, the Spartans returned to the national final for the first time since their lone Tantramar Trophy victory in 2006.

Only five teams have hoisted the Tantramar on home court over the years including Alberta in 2009 and 2002, Calgary in 1989, Winnipeg in 1987 and UBC in 1983.

“It’s always exciting to get the chance to compete for a national championship. Every team starts out in September with that as their ultimate goal. The opportunity to compete for that championship in front of our own family, friends and faithful supporters only makes it that much more exciting,” says TWU head coach Ben Josephson, who was an assistant when the Spartans went all the way five years ago in Hamilton. “We have always believed we have the best fans in the country and now we will get to compete for Canadian volleyball’s biggest prize with them alongside us the whole way.”

The Spartans will be tested right from the get go in their quest for CIS gold as they drew archrival Alberta for their first-round matchup. Trinity Western holds a 3-2 edge in the head-to-head series so far this season, including a four-set win last Saturday in the Canada West bronze medal match.

The six-time national champion Golden Bears saw their amazing streak of eight consecutive appearances in the CIS final come to an end last year in Kamloops but still reached the podium for a ninth straight season thanks to a third-place finish.

Sixth-seeded McMaster downed Western in four sets in the OUA final to qualify for the Nationals for the fifth time in six campaigns. The Marauders split a pre-season doubleheader with No. 1 Calgary back in early October, in Hamilton.

Seventh-ranked UNB ended another remarkable streak two weekends ago when they swept Dalhousie in two games in the AUS final, preventing the Tigers from advancing to a 32nd straight CIS tournament. The Varsity Reds tied for seventh in 2009 in their only other national championship appearance since 1979.

Quebec finalist Sherbrooke makes its first trip to the end-of-the-year rendez-vous since a fifth-place finish in 2004. The last No. 8 seed to upset the championship favourites in the opening round was Dalhousie, which stunned Laval in five sets in 2000 in Quebec City.


CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (all times LOCAL: Pacific Time)

NOTE:  Live webcast of all matches at http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/mvball

Wednesday, March 2

18:00 All-Canadian Awards Banquet

Thursday, March 3

8:00 – 20:00 Team practices

Friday, March 4

13:00 Quarter-final #1: No. 2 Laval vs. No. 7 UNB
15:00 Quarter-final #2: No. 3 Brandon vs. No. 6 McMaster
18:00 Quarter-final #3: No. 4 Trinity Western vs. No. 5 Alberta
20:00 Quarter-final #4: No. 1 Calgary vs. No. 8 Sherbrooke

Saturday, March 5

13:00 Consolation #1: Loser QF #1 vs. Loser QF #2 
15:00 Consolation #2: Loser QF #3 vs. Loser QF #4 
18:00 Semi-final #1: Winner QF #1 vs. Winner QF #2 
20:00 Semi-final #2: Winner QF #3 vs. Winner QF #4 

Sunday, March 6

12:00 5th place 
15:00 Bronze medal
18:00 Championship final 

About Canadian Interuniversity Sport

Canadian Interuniversity Sport is the national governing body of university sport in Canada. Fifty-one universities, 10,000 student-athletes and 550 coaches vie for 21 national championships in 12 different sports. CIS also provides high performance international opportunities for Canadian student-athletes at Winter and Summer Universiades, as well as numerous world university championships. For further information, visit www.cis-sic.ca.

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For more information contact:

Michel Bélanger       
Manager, Communications & Media Relations
Canadian Interuniversity Sport
Off: (613) 562-5670 ext. 25
Cell: (613) 447-6334
belanger@universitysport.ca
www.cis-sic.ca

Scott Stewart
Sports Information Director
Trinity Western University
Ph: (604) 513-2123
Cell: (604) 764-1533
ssstew@twu.ca