Despite rocky start, Dinos poised for playoff success
It took just over an hour for the University of Calgary Dinos women's volleyball team to defeat the University of Saskatchewan Huskies three sets to none (25-16, 25-15, 25-18) on Jan. 21, sweeping their opponents at home for the second consecutive night.
Saturday's victory marks a four-match winning streak for the Dinos, and bumps them into sixth place in the Canada West conference standings as they near the end of regular-season play.
"It was business as usual," said Dinos' left-side Maura Hayes. "We knew we could beat them; we had confidence."
That confidence was evident in the Dinos' effort against the winless Huskies.
In each set, the squad sent strings of accurate hits barrelling towards their opponents, often leaving the Huskies scrambling to make desperate plays off of awkward digs.
Sarah Moncks and Ali Sandholm were powerhouses up front, leading their team to victory by earning 10 kills a piece against a scrappy, disjointed Saskatchewan. When the Huskies did manage to sneak hits past strong Dinos blocking, the defence held strong with solid digs.
The Dinos won each set handily and according to first-year head coach Natalie Schwartz, the win was largely thanks to a cohesive team effort.
"We're starting to play for each-other instead of ourselves, we're getting closer and closer and I think it's the relationships in the team that are helping us to really perform."
- Emma Pedersen, first-year player
"Anytime you beat a team like that and that solidly, it's everyone contributing," said Schwartz. "I wouldn't say there was an all-star tonight, there were just a lot of people doing their jobs really well."
On paper, the team's regular season play has been inconsistent. In 2011 the Dinos won only one of six matches away from home, but pulled off five wins out of six home games.
"It just took some time to get everyone on the same page," said third-year Hayes about the team's rocky start.
Hayes attributes the team's discontinuous performance to "growing pains," noting that it takes time for any team to adjust to the addition of new players and a new head coach.
Bench-boss Schwartz likens this adjustment period to "building a new culture," and said she believes the culture-building period is over.
"The philosophy and culture that we've been building in the first semester is there and already established, so I just think it's time to bring it all together," she said.
Schwartz, a Dinos alumnus, is not the only one to credit the team's building success to a growing sense of community.
"It feels like such a unit now," said Emma Pedersen, Saturday night's player-of-the-game. "We're starting to play for each-other instead of ourselves, we're getting closer and closer and I think it's the relationships in the team that are helping us to really perform."
And the Dinos have been performing. The squad hasn't lost a regular season game since November, and will be heading into their last six matches with newfound confidence.
Schwartz said she believes Saturday's win will give the team valuable momentum heading into the end of their season, noting that continued attention to process and technical detail will allow the team to be successful.
"We're going for it," said Schwartz of remaining season play. "We're going for a run so that we can put ourselves in the best possible situation in playoffs.
"We are training every single day like we're in a national championship, and there's no other reason why we're here."
The Dinos will next travel to Edmonton, where they will face the fifth-place University of Alberta Pandas on Jan. 27 and 28.
- By Krystal Northey