50th CIS men’s volleyball championship preview

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McMaster Marauders volly

OTTAWA (CIS) – Eight teams will be looking to make history this week in Hamilton as CIS celebrates 50 years of men’s volleyball, including the tournament host McMaster Marauders and the reigning two-time national champion Alberta Golden Bears

The 50th CIS championship, presented by Leggat Auto Group, gets under way Thursday at McMaster’s Burridge Gym and concludes Saturday with the gold-medal final at 6 p.m. All 11 games will be webcast live on www.CIS-SIC.tv and Cable 14 will also televise all matches locally, with the exception of quarter-finals 2 and 3. 

The seeding was announced on Sunday night with the host Marauders (OUA champions) meriting No. 1 status for the second straight year. Rounding out the 2016 draw are the second-seeded Trinity Western Spartans (Canada West champs), No. 3 Laval Rouge et Or (RSEQ champs), No. 4 UNB Varsity Reds (AUS champs), No. 5 Saskatchewan Huskies (Canada West finalists), No. 6 Alberta (Canada West bronze medallists), No. 7 Ryerson Rams (OUA finalists) and No. 8 Waterloo Warriors (OUA bronze medallists).

Thursday’s quarter-final matchups include Ryerson vs. Trinity Western in the 1 p.m. opener, Alberta vs. Laval at 3 p.m., Saskatchewan vs. UNB at 6 p.m., as well as Waterloo vs. McMaster at 8 p.m.

As has been the case for two decades, teams from Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic will do their best to put an end to Canada West’s domination in the sport. Western conference schools have claimed no less than 20 of the past 21 Tantramar Trophy titles, the lone exception over that period being Laval in 2013.

In fact, Laval is the only program from outside Canada West to capture the CIS banner since 1975, a feat the Rouge et Or accomplished three times over a five-year period in the early 1990s (1990, 1992, 1994) before their most recent conquest three seasons ago.

Alberta is the most decorated team at this week’s tourney with eight Tantramar Trophy victories. Laval (4), Saskatchewan (4) and Trinity Western (3) follow in order, with McMaster, UNB, Ryerson and Waterloo all looking for their first taste of CIS gold.

The Golden Bears, who need two more triumphs to catch Winnipeg and Manitoba on the all-time leaders list, hope to become only the second program in history to three-peat as CIS champion. The Winnipeg Wesmen won four straight pennants from 1971 to 1974.

A year after settling for CIS bronze as the top seed in Saskatoon, McMaster is enjoying another stellar season with 22 wins in 25 overall contests versus CIS opponents, including three-set decisions over Waterloo and Ryerson at the OUA Final Four en route to their fourth straight conference title. In pre-season action back in early October, the Marauders won two out of three on home court against Alberta, including a pair of 3-0 victories and a 3-2 loss.

McMaster has come oh-so-close at the national tournament in recent years with three straight podium finishes, including a program-best silver medal in 2013.

“We’re starting to return to full strength, but still looking to hit our stride. Our rhythm has taken a bit of a hit, and I think it’s a consequence of us moving our lineup around in the last seven or eight matches. But it’s nice to see that over the course of the Final Four weekend, it started to get a little bit more productive,” said 14-year head coach Dave Preston. “It’s all about serving and passing. It is at every level. I thought that our passing was outstanding last weekend. I thought that we handled that really, really well. But we’ll continue to work on the serving and the defence.”

Making its seventh straight appearance at nationals, second-seeded Trinity Western didn’t exactly look like a championship team at the end of January with a 9-9 league record. But the 2015 CIS finalists have since won nine of 11 contests, including a stunning 3-0 defeat of Alberta in the Canada West semifinals and 3-1 decision over Saskatchewan in the conference title match.

“A few weeks ago when we were sitting at the bye at 9-9 and wondering if we were going to make the playoffs, it didn’t really look like this was in our future,” said nine-year bench boss Ben Josephson, whose team ended up sixth in the Canada West regular season standings with a 14-10 mark. “But we always said that this group has great potential and can be very dangerous if we ever figured it out. We always thought we were going to be dangerous at the end of the season but it just took a little longer to come together than we had hoped. Fortunately it came together in enough time for us to make this run. Now we get to go to nationals as Canada West champs, which is still settling in.”

Along with Trinity Western and Alberta, Laval is among the usual suspects when it comes to the CIS championship. The Rouge et Or survived a scare in the best-of-three RSEQ final against Montreal, dropping the series opener on home court before recovering to claim their 11 straight Quebec banner and advance to the national competition for the 19th year in a row.

“When its national championship time, we always seem to find a way to get there. This time around however, we want to compete better than last year,” said 24-year head coach Pascal Clément, whose troops went 0-2 last March in Saskatoon, including a straight-set quarter-final loss to TWU. “We played very well in the last two matches of the RSEQ final. We’ll be ready, no matter the opponent.”

Like the Spartans in Canada West, UNB didn’t look like a team that was Hamilton-bound back in January, sitting at 5-8 in the AUS standings, a modest record that included a five-game losing streak. The Varsity Reds, who return to the CIS tourney after a two-year absence, recovered with four wins in their last five outings, all against Dalhousie, including a 3-1 victory in the decisive match of the best-of-three league final.    

“It’s been a couple of years since our last appearance at nationals, so we’re excited to be back, and excited to get the opportunity to compete for a CIS title,” said 12-year coach Dan McMorran.

Saskatchewan finished fifth as the host team at last year’s national championship but this marks the first time since 2006 that the Huskies have qualified for the CIS tournament based on their performance on the court. Before dropping a four-set decision to TWU in the Canada West final, they eliminated higher-ranked Winnipeg and Manitoba in the quarter-finals and semis, respectively.

“We are thrilled to qualify for the 2016 nationals. We knocked off some great teams and feel we are playing our best volleyball,” said 24-year mentor Brian Gavlas, whose son CJ took over as the Huskies’ starting setter early in the season due to an injury and ended up being named the Canada West rookie of the year. “We are looking forward to competing for the national championship.”

Sitting atop the national rankings following a 23-1 regular season, Alberta was brought back to earth by Trinity Western in the Canada West semis – on home court – before salvaging its season with a dominant 3-0 win over Manitoba in the bronze-medal match. Now looking for their first-ever Tantramar Trophy three-peat, the Golden Bears boast an experienced lineup featuring four conference all-stars in the fourth or fifth year of eligibility, including league-MVP setter Brett Walsh.

“We’ve been blessed to have great players here, and when we’ve had good players we managed to have some success as a team,” said 23-year sideline boss and former CIS championship MVP Terry Danyluk. “When you have those two things, you attract more good players. We’ve managed to be consistent as a program, which was always my goal. The big thing for us this week is that we’ll have to be ready on that opening day to play our game.”

Following a number of competitive seasons at the conference level, Ryerson finally advanced to the national championship for the first time in program history. The Rams, who went 14-6 in league play, punched their ticket thanks to a 3-1 win over Queen’s in the OUA semis.

“First of all, I would like to acknowledge the work of Coach Mirek Porosa. He recruited these players, trained them, and has produced a lot of great players for Ryerson,” said interim head coach Dustin Reid, a former national team player who had been at the helm of Rams’ women’s program for seven seasons before this year. “We’re excited to go to nationals and compete with the best in the country as it is the first time we’ve had a chance to do it as a team.”

After putting an end to a 19-year drought in 2015, Waterloo is making its second straight CIS tournament appearance thanks to a close-fought 3-2 win over Queen’s in the OUA bronze-medal match. The Warriors went 0-2 a year ago in Saskatoon, including a straight-set loss to eventual champion Alberta in the opening round.

“I am proud of our guys to bounce back and earn a scrappy victory over the Gaels,” said nine-year head coach Chris Lawson. “It’s been a season of resiliency for us and I expect all the hard work we have put in the second half to pay off at nationals.”

PARTICIPATING TEAMS

NO. 1 McMASTER MARAUDERS

Head Coach: Dave Preston (14th season)

Regular season record: 18-2

Regular season standing: 1st OUA

Playoff record: 2-0

Playoff finish: OUA champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 22-3

Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 23): No. 2

Best Top 10 ranking: No. 1 (13 weeks)

Number of weeks in Top 10 (15 polls): 15

Conference award winners: Stephen Maar (MVP)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Stephen Maar (LS), Danny Demyanenko (M), Andrew Kocur (S)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Pawel Jedrzejewski (LIB)

Conference all-rookie team: Craig Ireland (OH), Matthew Passalent (OH)

CIS championship best result: Finalists (2013)

CIS championship last appearance: 2015 (bronze)

CIS championship sequence: 4th straight appearance (9th in 11 years)

 

NO. 2 TRINITY WESTERN SPARTANS

Head Coach: Ben Josephson (9th season)

Regular season record: 14-10

Regular season standing: 6th Canada West

Playoff record: 4-1

Playoff finish: Canada West champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 24-15

Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 23): No. 6

Best Top 10 ranking: No. 3 (1 week)

Number of weeks in Top 10 (15 polls): 14

Conference award winners: None

Conference 1st team all-stars: None

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Ryan Sclater (OH), Tyler Koslowsky (LIB)

Conference all-rookie team: None

CIS championship best result: 3-time champions (2012, 2011, 2006)

CIS championship last appearance: 2015 (finalists)

CIS championship sequence: 7th straight appearance (11th in 13 years)

 

NO. 3 LAVAL ROUGE ET OR

Head Coach: Pascal Clément (24th season)

Regular season record: 14-3

Regular season standing: 1st RSEQ

Playoff record: 2-1

Playoff finish: RSEQ champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 18-6

Top 10 final ranking (Feb. 23): No. 7  

Top 10 best ranking: No. 5 (1 week)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (15 polls): 13

Conference award winners: Vicente Ignacio Parraguirre Villalobos (MVP), Vincent Thibault-Bernier (libero)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Vicente Ignacio Parraguirre Villalobos (OH), Hugo Léger (M), Vincent Thibault-Bernier (LIB)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: No second team in RSEQ

Conference all-rookie team: No rookie team in RSEQ

CIS championship best result: 4-time champions (2013, 1994, 1992, 1990)

CIS championship last appearance: 2015 (tied 7th place)

CIS championship sequence: 19th straight appearance (33rd in 35 years – missed 1997, 1993)

 

NO. 4 UNB VARSITY REDS

Head Coach: Dan McMorran (12th season)

Regular season record: 9-8

Regular season standing: 2nd AUS

Playoff record: 2-1

Playoff finish: AUS champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 12-10

Top 10 final ranking (Feb. 23): Unranked  

Top 10 best ranking: Unranked all season

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (15 polls): 0

Conference award winners: Eivind Andersen (MVP), Cody Timmons (Student-Athlete Community Service Award)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Eivind Andersen (OH), Pascal McCarthy (OH), Sam Alves (M)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: No second team in AUS

Conference all-rookie team: No rookie team in AUS

CIS championship best result: Information not available

CIS championship last appearance: 2013 (tied 7th place)

CIS championship sequence: Return after 2-year absence

 

NO. 5 SASKATCHEWAN HUSKIES

Head Coach: Brian Gavlas (24th season)

Regular season record: 15-9

Regular season standing: 5th Canada West

Playoff record: 3-2

Playoff finish: Canada West finalists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 19-15

Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 23): No. 8

Best Top 10 ranking: No. 7 (2 weeks)

Number of weeks in Top 10 (15 polls): 10

Conference award winners: CJ Gavlas (rookie), Robert Graham (Student-Athlete Community Service Award)

Conference 1st team all-stars: None

Conference 2nd team all-stars: None

Conference all-rookie team: CJ Gavlas (S)

CIS championship best result: 4-time champions (2004, 1999, 1988, 1979)

CIS championship last appearance: 2015 (5th place)

CIS championship sequence: 2nd straight appearance

 

NO. 6 ALBERTA GOLDEN BEARS

Head Coach: Terry Danyluk (23rd season)

Regular season record: 23-1

Regular season standing: 1st Canada West

Playoff record: 1-1

Playoff finish: Canada West bronze medallists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 29-4

Top 10 final ranking (Feb. 23): No. 1  

Top 10 best ranking: No. 1 (2 weeks)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (15 polls): 15

Conference award winners: Brett Walsh (MVP)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Brett Walsh (S), Ryley Barnes (LS), Taylor Arnett (M)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: John Goranson (M)

Conference all-rookie team: None

CIS championship best result: 8-time champions (2015, 2014, 2009, 2008, 2005, 2002, 1997, 1981)

CIS championship last appearance: 2015 (champions)

CIS championship sequence: 16th straight appearance (23rd in 24 years – missed 2000)

NO. 7 RYERSON RAMS

Head Coach: Dustin Reid (1st season – interim)

Regular season record: 14-6

Regular season standing: 3rd OUA

Playoff record: 2-1

Playoff finish: OUA finalists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 19-16

Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 23): No. 10 (tied)

Best Top 10 ranking: No. 8 (2 weeks)

Number of weeks in Top 10 (15 polls): 6

Conference award winners: None

Conference 1st team all-stars: None

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Lucas Coleman (LS)

Conference all-rookie team: None

CIS championship best result: First appearance

CIS championship last appearance: First appearance

CIS championship sequence: First appearance

NO. 8 WATERLOO WARRIORS

Head Coach: Chris Lawson (9th season)

Regular season record: 11-9

Regular season standing: 5th OUA

Playoff record: 2-1

Playoff finish: OUA bronze medallists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 16-13

Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 23): Unranked

Best Top 10 ranking: No. 10 (1 week)

Number of weeks in Top 10 (15 polls): 1

Conference award winners: None

Conference 1st team all-stars: Erich Woolley (LIB), Braden Cok (RS)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: None

Conference all-rookie team: None

CIS championship best result: Bronze medallists (1991, 1990, 1984)

CIS championship last appearance: 2015 (tied 7th place)

CIS championship sequence: 2nd straight appearance

CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE

Wednesday, March 9

7:30 All-Canadian Breakfast (Sheraton Hamilton Hotel)

Thursday, March 10

13:00 Quarter-final #1: Ryerson vs. Trinity Western (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv)

15:00 Quarter-final #2: Alberta vs. Laval (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

18:00 Quarter-final #3: Saskatchewan vs. UNB (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

20:00 Quarter-final #4: Waterloo vs. McMaster (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv)

Friday, March 11

13:00 Consolation #1: Loser QF #1 vs. Loser QF #2 (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv)   

15:00 Consolation #2: Loser QF #3 vs. Loser QF #4 (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv)   

18:00 Semifinal #1: Winner QF #1 vs. Winner QF #2 (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv)   

20:00 Semifinal #2: Winner QF #3 vs. Winner QF #4 (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv)   

Saturday, March 12

13:00 5th place (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv)   

15:00 Bronze medal (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv

18:00 Championship final (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv) *   

* Tape delayed to 22:00 on Cable 14.

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