Dinos men’s and women’s volleyball playoffs recap
By Rodrigo Verney, April 22 2022—
The Dino’s women’s volleyball team has put up an amazing display of teamwork and effort as they hosted their last game of the postseason. What more could the University of Calgary varsity fans hope for in a send-off as the team gave their all against a hard-hitting and resistant University of Toronto? U of T advanced to the consolation final after outlasting the game against the Dinos and went on to beat the Brock University Badgers 3–1.
The consolation semi-final match at the USPORTS Women’s Volleyball Championship didn’t end with a win but this team has so much more to offer. What this relatively young squad has done this past season has been a statement on teamwork.
All the players have had amazing opportunities to grow and adapt to each other and all of this culminated in last Saturday’s consolation game, with players like Kenzie Vaandering and Sheridan Coninx giving unforgettable performances.
Vaadering set the pace of the game early on by beginning the game with three straight kills, putting the Dinos in a 4–0 start on the first set, forcing a Toronto timeout call. This start was crucial to set the initial intentions and dominate the match — something that the squad was itching to do after the bitter loss in the National Quarter-Final game against Trinity Western.
However, this wasn’t the end of the U of T team. If anything, this moment would only signify the beginning of an entertaining matchup, as the Blues would go on to have a 6–0 run halfway through the first set, regain the lead and remain four points ahead, 19–15.
The Dinos fought back later in the set to squeeze a 21–20 lead. Unfortunately, that would be the last time they would score in the opening set as Toronto won 25–21.
The second set was dominated by the Blues, with Outside Hitter, Hope Kutton. She had an amazing performance, leading her to a total of 17 kills throughout the game. U of T was heading towards a peak in the third set.
The Dinos tried to stop their overflowing offense with some correcting defensive schemes but the adjustments couldn’t stop the fundamental focused Toronto offense. The U of T had a match-defining performance with a third of their hits converging — a percentage that left the Dinos in a tough spot, only converging .226 of their hits.
However, the Dinos shone brighter when they had their backs against the wall and were able to come out of the third with an important win. The defensive adjustments of the Dinos paid off. This was their best set in defense, racking up a total of five blocks.
This was necessary to slow down the rampant Blues, who went from hitting a third of their hits to .108 — easily the lowest of the match. This defense coupled with Vaadering’s performance tipped the scale for the Dinos to come out with a victory in the third.
Having to fend for their lives, the Dinos triumphantly took the fourth set to tie the overall game. Following their great third set, the young squad came back from being five points down to even the set halfway through. Trailing at the end of the game 21–18, the Dinos had a much-needed 4–0 run to send the game to a fifth set. Finishing it 25–22 was a powerful display of resistance and teamwork in a late-game situation.
The fifth set was a tug-of-war between the two teams, both having amazing looks and kills during the game, converting kills at a very high percentage. The Blues were exceptionally good on the later part of the game, converting half of their offensive possessions, giving them the edge to take the extra set 15–13. Though, the Dinos had to accept their season stopping short in a match that would be hard to forget.
Vaadering played her last match wearing the Dinos’ colours — an amazing battle and send off to one of the few veterans on this young squad. The now-graduate states that she is simply ecstatic about the weekend as a whole and glad that it ended in front of her home crowd. Vaadering, alongside Marina Culo and Julia Sprentz, graduated from the program and are already missed by Dinos fans.
The Outside Hitter led the Dinos in front of the home crowd, with 22 kills and racking up 14 digs. Vaandering reflects upon her career and performance as she sends a lasting message to the people that helped her grow during her journey.
“It’s been amazing, I’m really going to remember the support from the fans, the athletic department and everyone who showed up and cheered for us. I think it’s such a good building block for next year, especially since we have such a young team,” she said.
Everyone will be missing the amazing performances these veterans brought to the game. However, as Vaandering said, this will be just another opportunity to smile and know that the future is bright for the team.
After a challenging year that brought forth many adversities, the Dinos Men’s Volleyball team has had another opportunity at stardom, as three names rose to the occasion when they conquered a new step in their decorated careers.
Tomas Sorra, Hamish Hazelden and Parker Siroishka are the three names that will be leaving the University of Calgary team this semester. Their countless efforts to reach the ultimate goal were finally achieved as the Dinos won the USPORTS bronze medal in men’s volleyball.
These players have been through all the challenges posed by this pandemic together and had to adapt to a variety of different situations. But through it all, they managed to maintain their chemistry and their ability to work as a team — a team that was much different from the last time we’ve seen them.
It is an understatement to say that the Dinos aren’t the same as they were two years ago. Siroishka himself, who originally played outside hitter, had to switch halfway through the season to fill the role of the libero.
This season, however, he would finally return to the outside hitter position — a welcomed but arduous task. Though, he embraced this transition very naturally. He states that this was the position he prefers to play and his intended role but this goes to show how a varsity player has to adapt.
Sorra also had to push his limits by putting everything he had into the game. He appeared in all the matches this season and put up amazing numbers as usual. The mentality he brings to each game is unimaginable and unmatched.
The headspace he is in to continue to bring his A-game every time he is on the floor serves as a great indicator of how strong and centred the seniors are. However, it’s not only through a tough mindset that wins games. These three individuals have brought everything they had from the moment that the match started to the last call. Utilizing strong offensive positions and leadership is at the core of every winning team.
Hazelden has been a much-needed help as a leading force for every player on the court. The first team Canada all-star has been putting amazing numbers throughout the board. Starting every game alongside Sorra, Hazelden has been the deciding factor in many matches and has been a prime example of the capabilities these three seniors have to score efficiently.
These players became such leaders throughout this season. We saw this throughout the first couple of months through great wins, especially against strong competitors like Mount Royal University and McEwan University. The importance of starting a season hot is unmeasurable. To take the reins early on and demonstrate the growth of the players is what defines a great winning team.
It is crucial to understand that the first couple of months are usually months where the teams are coming back and starting to play with real competition, so this is the moment to strike and maintain a good lead, especially in an environment as competitive as varsity sports.
This philosophy was worth it as the season followed suit. The team not only had a great game-by-game performance but they also finished the season with a 21–13 overall record. This is the type of improvement that you want to see at every level.
In their case, of course, knowing that you are improving and being in that position is very rewarding but the focus wasn’t on the past. The mindset that the team had, especially the seniors, was to focus on every game and to be able to persist and come out with the win.
The thought of being part of a new generation of players and sharing the memories and the fun with this young squad, while also knowing this would be their last season favoured their competitive edge.
This was a big feat considering the context of the pandemic and the effects that it had on players. To be able to step onto the court and to enjoy the game and be present in the moment while also being a symbol of guidance for the new players, was a very rewarding experience for the senior. Though every game counts, the team was happy to be able to be part of another season and to finally play competitively again.
This philosophy quickly changed, however, once they went to the playoffs. In the regular season, every game is important. However, it is hard to distract the mind from the fact that you have a lot of games on your schedule, so a win in some places may not mean as much as in others. However, the playoffs were a do-or-die situation and the team’s headspace was a “win-or-stop-playing” mentality.
This brought forth the powerful performances that we saw during the playoffs. Led by Hazeldene, both the seniors and the new players were able to penetrate deeply into the postseason — an effort that brought them to the place they wanted to be.
Just the thought that they could be competing for a medal was enough to fuel their drive to succeed. The result was an amazing experience for both the new players, the seniors and the fans — a tale that Rex won’t let anyone forget.
Everyone involved with the growth that these players displayed will be fondly looking back at the amazing efforts and stories that they built together. Varsity sport is an incredible opportunity, not only to experience but also for growth. From the nerve-racking first games to the almost mirror opposite final playoff run, these are the moments that will forever stay with the players.
Our congratulations go out to the team and we wish the best for these graduating athletes!