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2012 CIS women's volleyball championship preview: Martlets looking for first CIS banner

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Published: 2 Mar 2012

 

OTTAWA (CIS) - The McGill Martlets are seeded fifth in their first trip to the CIS women's volleyball championship, which begins today in Hamilton.

 

Championship web site: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/wvball/index

 

The eight-team tournament, hosted for the first time since 1979 - and for the second time in history - by McMaster University, gets under way Friday with the quarter-final round and concludes Sunday at 4 p.m. with the gold-medal final.

 

All 11 matches from the tournament will be webcast live by SSN Canada.

 

While the University of Alberta Pandas are seeded No. 1, there is a general feeling that the second-ranked UBC Thunderbirds will still be the team to beat this weekend The Pandas secured the top seed thanks to a thrilling five-set victory over UBC in Saturday night's Canada West final in Vancouver.

 

However, the Thunderbirds, who topped the Canada West standings in league play with an 18-2 record (compared to 14-6 for Alberta), go into the national tournament as the reigning four-time CIS champions. In winning their fourth straight title a year ago with a 3-0 domination of Laval in Quebec City, the T-Birds set an all-time record for most CIS women's volleyball banners, with eight.

 

Alberta is tied with Winnipeg for second place with seven championship trophies, and also shares the all-time mark of six CIS titles in a row with the Wesmen.

 

Also competing for CIS supremacy this weekend will be the No. 3 Montreal Carabins (RSEQ champions), No. 4 Saint Mary's Huskies (AUS champions), No. 5 McGill Martlets (RSEQ finalists), No. 6 Trinity Western Spartans (Canada West bronze medallists), No. 7 Queen's Gaels (OUA champions) and No. 8 McMaster Marauders (championship hosts).

 

On Friday, Alberta faces host McMaster at 8 p.m. in the last quarter-final match-up of opening day, while UBC opens its title defence against Queen's at 3 p.m. The other first-round contests see Montreal battle Trinity Western at 1 p.m., and Saint Mary's face McGill at 6 p.m.

 

Alberta, UBC and TWU also hope to resume the Canada West domination of the sport. Teams currently competing in the CWUAA (including schools from the now defunct Great Plains conference) have won 31 of the last 35 national titles. Laval (2006), Sherbrooke (2005, 2003) and Dalhousie (1982) are the only Eastern squads that have triumphed since 1977.

 

The 2012 championship kicks off with a duel between RSEQ champion Montreal and Canada West bronze medallist Trinity Western, two teams still looking for a first CIS title.

 

After reaching the CIS final for the first time in 2008 and claiming bronze in 2009, the Carabins were eliminated in the first round of the national tournament each of the past two years. The Spartans had the best result in program history last year with a bronze-medal win over Alberta.

 

"We were pleased to win the RSEQ title and proud to earn the third seed. We play in a very competitive conference and it's never easy to come out on top," says Montreal head coach Olivier Trudel. "We faced a lot of adversity this year. We lost our number one setter, who was a first-team all-Canadian a year ago, to an injury in the pre-season. But the team bounced back. Our team battles hard, we never quit."

 

Trinity Western's Ryan Hofer was also quick to point out the strength of his conference.

 

"We know the road to a national championship is long and hard, and getting out of Canada West is the first step," remarks Hofer. "Our season has been a journey of overcoming injuries, constant improvement and positioning ourselves for the playoff run. I believe the strength of our conference and the depth of our team has prepared us to face the challenges of the national tournament and has given us the opportunity to do something special. We are excited to represent our school and conference with pride and look forward to a great weekend of competition."

 

On the same side of the draw, defending champion UBC is set to face Queen's for a spot in the semis.

 

In a classic David-versus-Goliath battle, the Gaels, who defeated Ottawa on Sunday to claim their first-ever OUA title and qualify for the CIS championship for the first time in school history, will square off against a Thunderbird team that has won 12 straight games at the national tournament and has reached the final in its last six trips to the tourney.

 

Pacing the powerful Thunderbirds are Kyla Richey, the Canada West MVP and a member of the senior national team, as well as 2010-11 CIS player of the year Shanice Marcelle. Both are former CIS championship MVPs.

 

"We are thrilled to get the chance to defend our title," says UBC head coach Doug Reimer. "I was pleased with our consistency of play during the regular season with an 18-2 record. I think it was a testament to our depth in several positions and experience gained from the last few years. We were disappointed to lose the Canada West final but give Alberta full marks for their performance on back to back nights. We have a tough road that starts with a Queen's team that we cannot afford to look past given their great playoff run."

 

Queen's head coach Joely Christian-Macfarlane couldn't be more proud of her team's season so far.

 

"This has been an unreal season for the women's volleyball program at Queen's. Having a young energetic team, we set our goals out to be very simple, finish equal to or better than we had the season before. To come this far and finish the season as OUA champions is an incredible feat and something our team is very proud of.  Every match throughout the season and even into the playoffs taught us something about ourselves and it was those lessons that have had some of the greatest impact on our development as a team.

 

"I'm excited to have the team compete at the CIS championship. It is such a rare opportunity and one that needs to be enjoyed to its fullest potential. Regardless of who we play, our goals for this championship remain the same as they have all year in the OUA - get better every match and compete."

 

In the other bracket, Alberta goes in as favourite against host McMaster, while Saint Mary's versus McGill might be the most intriguing match-up of the opening round.

 

The Pandas, who were last crowned in 2007, hope to advance past the first round for the third straight year, but hope to improve on a pair of fourth-place finishes in 2010 and 2011. They have showed this season they can compete with the best, having split their four games with UBC, including the spectacular win on the T-Birds' court in the Canada West final.

 

The Marauders, who were eliminated from the OUA playoffs following a 3-0 loss to Toronto in the quarter-final round, finished sixth in 2008 in their only previous appearance at the CIS tourney.

 

"The season has been one of change and adversity," comments Alberta mentor Laurie Eisler. "The team has thrived in its new home at the Saville Community Sports Centre and dealt with a number of challenges over the past five months. This combined with an unbelievably high level of play in Canada West has really prepared us for what we dealt with in the qualification process the past two weekends.  The Pandas are excited about the opportunity to compete for the national championship and look forward to the challenges we will face this upcoming weekend."

 

"We have been included in a tremendous event and have a great opportunity to compete against the best teams in the country in our own court space," says McMaster's Tim Louks. "This will bring recognition of the game and the great universities represented that we have seen a few years ago when our men's program hosted the tournament. What an outstanding event for our volleyball community and our program and players to be a part of!"

 

Led by two-time all-Canadian left side Kerri Smit, who recently claimed an unprecedented third straight AUS MVP award, Saint Mary's is enjoying the best season in program history and hopes to advance past the opening round of the CIS tournament for the first time. Ranked second behind UBC in the final national Top 10 poll of the campaign, the Huskies went 16-1 in conference play before adding two straight wins in the AUS playoffs.

 

For its part, McGill kept a sub-par 5-10 mark in league play but shocked perennial powerhouse Laval, last year's CIS finalist, in the RSEQ semifinals before falling to Montreal in the conference final. In the third and deciding game of their series against Laval, the Martlets overcame a two-set deficit to down the Rouge et Or in their own gym. They will now compete on the national stage for only the second time in history, their only previous appearance dating back to 1997.

 

Saint Mary's beat McGill twice in non-conference action in mid-October, 3-2 and 3-0.

 

"We have had a very successful season thus far and are looking forward to the CIS championship at McMaster," says Huskies head coach Darren Russell. "This is what we have been working very diligently toward all year and our team has been focused on this goal the entire season. Because of the experience on the team and our previous appearance at the CIS two years ago, I feel that we are well positioned to have a good showing this year at the championship."

 

"It is great to be back at the CIS championship after a 15-year absence," says McGill's Rachèle Béliveau. "It is always a tough battle to get out of the Quebec conference and it was very exciting for our team to qualify for Nationals by overcoming a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 over a perennial champion like Laval. We are now ready for this tournament and hoping to recreate the magic in Hamilton. We are a young team but one that that will fight to the bitter end, regardless of the score."

 

PARTICIPATING TEAMS

 

No. 1 Alberta Pandas

 

Head coach: Laurie Eisler (20th season)

Regular season record: 14-6

Regular season standing: 2nd Canada West

Playoff record: 4-0

Playoff finish: Canada West champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 29-8

Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 14): No. 5

Best Top 10 ranking: No. 2 (first 9 polls)

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

Conference award winners:

Conference 1st team all-stars: Jaki Ellis (setter), Alena Omelcheko (outside)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: None

CIS championship best result: 7-time champions (2007, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995)

CIS championship last appearance: 2011 (4th place)

CIS championship sequence: 17th appearance in 20 years (missed 2009, 2002, 2001)

 

No. 2 UBC Thunderbirds

 

Head coach: Doug Reimer (15th season)

Regular season record: 18-2

Regular season standing: 1st Canada West

Playoff record: 1-1

Playoff finish: Canada West finalists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 23-4

Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 14): No. 1

Best Top 10 ranking: No. 1 (all 14 polls)

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

Conference award winners: Kyla Richey (MVP), Rayel Quiring (volleyball, academics & community service)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Kyla Richey (left side), Shanice Marcelle (outside)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Brina Derksen-Bergen (setter)

CIS championship best result: 8-time champions (2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 1978, 1977, 1974, 1973)

CIS championship last appearance: 2011 (champions)

CIS championship sequence: 17th appearance in 18 years (missed 2007)

 

No. 3 Montreal Carabins

 

Head coach: Olivier Trudel (8th season)

Regular season record: 12-3

Regular season standing: 1st RSEQ

Playoff record: 2-0

Playoff finish: RSEQ champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 22-6

Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 14): No. 6

Best Top 10 ranking: No. 3 (poll 4)

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

Conference award winners: Marie-Sophie Nadeau (MVP), Olivier Trudel (coach)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Marie-Sophie Nadeau (outside), Mélanie Roy (outside)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Gabrielle Vallée-Vachon (middle), Sophie Bergeron-Leblanc (outside)

CIS championship best result: Finalists (2008)

CIS championship last appearance: 2011 (5th place)

CIS championship sequence: 7th consecutive appearance

 

No. 4 Saint Mary's Huskies

 

Head coach: Darren Russell (3rd season)

Regular season record: 16-1

Regular season standing: 1st AUS

Playoff record: 2-0

Playoff finish: AUS champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 29-3

Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 14): No. 2

Best Top 10 ranking: No. 2 (polls 11, 13, 14)

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

Conference award winners: Kerri Smit (MVP),, Anastasia Callaghan (libero), Darren Russell (coach)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Kerri Smit (left side), Ariel Smith (right side), Anastasia Callaghan (libero)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: None

CIS championship best result: Tied for 7th place (2010, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004)

CIS championship last appearance: 2010 (tied for 7th place)

CIS championship sequence: Return after one-year absence (4th appearance in 5 years)

 

No. 5 McGill Martlets

 

Head coach: Rachèle Béliveau (21st season)

Regular season record: 5-10

Regular season standing: 3rd RSEQ

Playoff record: 2-3

Playoff finish: RSEQ finalists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 21-19

Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 14): No. 10

Best Top 10 ranking: No. 7 (first 3 polls)

Number of weeks in Top 10 (14 polls): 6

Conference award winners: Daphnée-Maude André-Morin (libero), Kaiva Mateus (volleyball, academics & community service)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Kaiva Mateus (middle)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Daphnée-Maude André-Morin (libero), Marcela Mansure (setter)

CIS championship best result: 6th place (1997)

CIS championship last appearance: 1997 (6th place)

CIS championship sequence: 1st appearance since 1997 (second in team history)

 

No. 6 Trinity Western Spartans

 

Head coach: Ryan Hofer (7th season)

Regular season record: 13-7

Regular season standing: 4th Canada West

Playoff record: 3-1

Playoff finish: Canada West bronze medallists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 18-11

Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 14): No. 3 (tied)

Best Top 10 ranking: No. 2 (poll 12)

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

Conference award winners: None

Conference 1st team all-stars: Alicia Perrin (middle)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Royal Richardson (outside)

CIS championship best result: Bronze (2011)

CIS championship last appearance: 2011 (bronze)

CIS championship sequence: 2nd consecutive appearance (5th in 7 years)

 

No. 7 Queen's Gaels

 

Head coach: Joely Christian-MacFarlane (5th season)

Regular season record: 13-5

Regular season standing: 3rd OUA

Playoff record: 3-0

Playoff finish: OUA champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 18-13

Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 14): Unranked

Best Top 10 ranking: Unranked all season

Number of weeks in Top 10 (14 polls): 0

Conference award winners: Natalie Gray (MVP / volleyball, academics & community service)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Natalie Gray (outside)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Becky Billings (outside)

CIS championship best result: First appearance in team history

CIS championship last appearance: First appearance in team history

CIS championship sequence: First appearance in team history

 

No. 8 McMaster Marauders

 

Head coach: Tim Louks (25th season)

Regular season record: 11-7

Regular season standing: 4th OUA

Playoff record: 0-1

Playoff finish: OUA quart-finals

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 14-11

Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 14): Unranked

Best Top 10 ranking: Unranked all season

Number of weeks in Top 10 (14 polls): 0

Conference award winners: Meagan Nederveen (libero)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Shannon McRobert (middle)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: None

CIS championship best result: 6th place (2008)

CIS championship last appearance: 2008 (6th place)

CIS championship sequence: 2nd appearance in team history (2008)

 

CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE

 

NOTE: Live webcast of all games on SSN Canada.

 

Wednesday, February 29

18:30 All-Canadian Awards Gala (Crowne Plaza Hotel)

 

Thursday, March 1

9:00 - 17:00 Team practices (55 minutes per team)

 

Friday, March 2

13:00 Quarter-final #1: No. 3 Montreal vs. No. 6 Trinity Western

15:00 Quarter-final #2: No. 2 UBC vs. No. 7 Queen's

18:00 Quarter-final #3: No. 4 Saint Mary's vs. No. 5 McGill

20:00 Quarter-final #4: No. 1 Alberta vs. No. 8 McMaster

 

Saturday, March 3

13:00 Consolation #1: Loser QF #1 vs. Loser QF #2

15:00 Consolation #2: Loser QF #3 vs. Loser QF #4

18:00 Semifinal #1: Winner QF #1 vs. Winner QF #2

20:00 Semifinal #2: Winner QF #3 vs. Winner QF #4

 

Sunday, March 4

11:00 5th place

13:00 Bronze medal

16:00 Championship final

 


For more information contact:

 

Cam Dunlop

Communications Coordinator

McMaster University

Off: (905) 525-9140 ext. 24458

Cell: (905) 741-8767

dunlopc [at] mcmaster [dot] ca


Michel Bélanger

Manager, Communications & Media Relations

Canadian Interuniversity Sport

Off: (613) 562-5670 ext. 25

Cell: (613) 447-6334

belanger [at] universitysport [dot] ca

www.cis-sic.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

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