Preview: CIS Women's Volleyball Championship
March 1, 2011
OTTAWA (CIS) – The top-seeded University of British Columbia Thunderbirds will not only be seeking a fourth straight national title this weekend in Quebec City, they could also become the most decorated team in Canadian Interuniversity Sport women’s volleyball history.
Championship web site: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/wvball
The eight-team, single-elimination CIS championship, hosted by Laval University for the sixth time in history and the first time since 2003, gets under way Friday with the quarter-final round and concludes Sunday at 4:30 p.m. with the gold-medal final. All 11 matches from the tournament will be webcast live.
Joining top-ranked UBC at the event are the No. 2 Trinity Western Spartans (Canada West finalists), No. 3 Laval Rouge et Or (Quebec champions), No. 4 Alberta Pandas (Canada West bronze medallists), No. 5 Montreal Carabins (Quebec finalists), No. 6 New Brunswick Varsity Reds (AUS champions), No. 7 Western Ontario Mustangs (OUA champions), and No. 8 Sherbrooke Vert & Or (Quebec bronze medallists).
UBC begins its title defence against Sherbrooke Friday at noon in the very first match of the championship. The other first-round duels pit Alberta against Montreal at 2 p.m., Trinity Western versus Western Ontario at 6 p.m., and host Laval against UNB at 8 p.m.
The Thunderbirds enter the competition tied with Winnipeg and Alberta for most CIS banners in history, with seven. Winnipeg and Alberta are also the only schools to win at least four consecutive crowns, the Wesmen capturing six titles in a row from 1983 to 1988 and the Pandas matching the feat from 1995 to 2000.
Of course, with the Pandas also battling for CIS supremacy this weekend, they hope to beat the T-Birds to the finish line and be the first to hoist the coveted trophy for the eighth time come Sunday.
UBC and Alberta find themselves on the same side of the draw and could clash on Saturday in the semifinal round.
The T-Birds and Pandas – along with Trinity Western - also hope to resume the Canada West domination of CIS women’s volleyball this week. Teams currently competing in the CWUAA (including schools from the now defunct Great Plains conference) have won 30 of the last 34 national titles.
Laval (2006), Sherbrooke (2005, 2003) and Dalhousie (1982) are the only Eastern squads to have triumphed since 1977.
“We were thrilled to emerge as Canada West champions this season,” says UBC head coach Doug Reimer, who has been named CIS coach of the year a record five times. “The semifinal win was obviously important because it provided the assurance of qualification but I think that the tough final was very good for our team. Our February schedule included two bye weekends and we needed the tough matches heading into the CIS championship.”
“Our players are excited to return to the Nationals as we have had such an amazing run the past few years, but they are far from complacent and know that each match will bring significant challenges.”
UBC went 15-3 in conference play and 2-0 in the playoffs this season despite the loss of 2009-10 CIS MVP Liz Cordonier to graduation last spring, and the absence of national team members Kyla Richey and Jen Hinze for the first half of the ’10-11 schedule.
In a thrilling Canada West final, the T-Birds overcame a two-set-to-one deficit to beat Trinity Western 17-15 in the fifth set.
“We did not play outside our conference this year so we will be scouting and learning this week, but we know that Canada West is sending three solid teams all of whom have the potential to do well,” adds Reimer, whose squad will make its 16th appearance at the CIS tournament in the past 17 years. “I really don’t think there is one team that could be considered a strong favourite based on the results we’ve seen this year from around the country.”
Host Laval and Montreal are two teams that seem ready to challenge Canada West.
After battling all year long in the Quebec conference, the archrivals ended up with identical 17-3 records, with Laval taking first place following tie-breaking procedures. They met again in the best-of-three RSEQ final, with the Rouge et Or prevailing 3-1 and 3-2.
Laval, which claimed CIS bronze a year ago and silver in 2007 since winning its lone national title in 2006, kept a 4-0 non-conference mark this season against Canada West teams including a pair of wins over Brandon (3-1, 3-2) and two victories over Manitoba (3-1, 3-2).
Montreal finished a disappointing seventh as the No. 2 seed at last year’s CIS tournament but had captured bronze in 2009 and silver in 2008. The Carabins won two of five duels against Canada West opponents this season, both versus Brandon.
In Friday’s second quarter-final, Montreal will have a chance to avenge a stunning straight-set loss to Alberta in last year’s opening round.
“I’ve been saying it for years: facing Montreal that many times every season is great for us because their style is very similar to Canada West teams. They’re solid at the net and their imposing players excel at blocking,” says Laval head coach Alain Pelletier, in his fourth season at the helm. “For us, it’s the best preparation for the national championship.”
The Quebec champions hope to become the first team to win the CIS title on home court since Alberta accomplished the feat three straight times from 1997 to 1999.
“We’ve been preparing for this since September 1st,” says Pelletier. “The girls are very familiar with the environment, the setting, the game protocol. We’ve been doing a lot of visualization and we’ve also been working closely with a sports psychologist. We know since September 1st that it’s coming, and now we’re here.”
Second-seeded Trinity Western had its best showing at the CIS championship in 2007, with a fourth-place finish.
The sixth-ranked Varsity Reds, who swept Saint Mary’s in straight sets in the AUS title match, went 0-2 at the CIS tourney in both 2009 and 2008, when they hosted the competition in Fredericton.
Seventh-seeded Western, which defeated Guelph 3-1 in the OUA final, was fifth in its last CIS tourney appearance in 2005. The Mustangs, who were crowned in 1972, 1975 and 1976, remain the only OUA team in history to claim the national title.
The No. 8 Vert & Or struggled through the regular season and ended up with a 5-15 record. However, Sherbrooke upset McGill in two matches in a best-of-three series for the third Quebec berth into the CIS championship.
NOTE: Live webcast of all matches at http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/wvball
Wednesday, March 2
18:30 All-Canadian Awards Banquet
Thursday, March 3
12:00 – 21:00 Team practices
Friday, March 4
12:00 Quarter-final #1: No. 1 UBC vs. No. 8 Sherbrooke
14:00 Quarter-final #2: No. 4 Alberta vs. No. 5 Montreal
18:00 Quarter-final #3: No. 2 Trinity Western vs. No. 7 Western Ontario
20:00 Quarter-final #4: No. 3 Laval vs. No. 6 UNB
Saturday, March 5
12:00 Consolation #1: Loser quarter-final #1 vs. Loser quarter-final #2
14:00 Consolation #2: Loser quarter-final #3 vs. Loser quarter-final #4
18:00 Semifinal #1: Winner quarter-final #1 vs. Winner quarter-final #2
20:00 Semifinal #2: Winner quarter-final #3 vs. Winner quarter-final #4
Sunday, March 6
11:00 5th place
13:00 Bronze medal
16:30 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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