CALGARY – The third-ranked University of Calgary Dinos women's volleyball team faced some stiff competition in their final home game of the regular season, being forced into a fifth set before beating the cross-town rival Mount Royal Cougars 3-2 (25-13, 21-25, 25-19, 21-25, and 15-10) on Thursday night at the Jack Simpson Gym.
With the win, the Dinos improve to 20-3 and maintain their position atop the Canada West standings, ahead of the 18-4 UBC Thunderbirds and UBC Okanagan Heat.
The loss puts a dent in Mount Royal's hopes, who slip to 11-12 on the season with one game to go.
"At this point of the competition, we have the skills, and it's the mental approach that can determine the result of a game. Playing a game versus Mount Royal will be entirely different than UBC for example," explained Dinos head coach Natalie Gurnsey. "We also need to stay composed even when we aren't playing to our desired result – today we had some players who acted as pillars and held us in there."
Calgary got off to a quick start with an early seven-point lead, 13-6, and continued attacking the net for the remainder of the set. Mount Royal kills from Nicky Zalasky and Alex Donaghy helped trim the deficit, but the visitors were unable to bounce back as the Dinos won the set 25-13 courtesy of an attack error by Chantel Park.
The Cougars started out the second set with a 2-0 run, but the Dinos quickly escaped out to a 9-3 advantage, with three kills from Kate Pexman, who put pressure on Mount Royal's offence. Mount Royal fought back, tying the set at 11-11, following a kill by Donaghy and a Calgary attack error. The teams traded points until a kill by Cassidy Kitchen allowed the Cougars to grab a slight edge, 17-15. Mount Royal closed out the set 25-21 by capitalizing on two successive kills by Donaghy and Zalasky.
Calgary grabbed a 7-1 advantage in the third set, with help from Vinnell and Pexman, and continued battling through the next several points, holding off the Cougars as they chipped away at the Dinos' advantage. Mount Royal came within one, at 8-7, but the Dinos held the Cougars off, quickly recording three more points and escaping to a secure 11-7 lead. The visiting team persisted, going on a five-point run at 24-15, but were unable to catch up, as Calgary took the set, 25-19.
The Dinos once again leapt out to an early lead in the fourth set, 7-3, but were unable to cling to the advantage, as a series of attack errors allowed the Cougars to grab a two point advantage, 11-9. Hannah Tanasichuk picked up back-to-back kills to do some damage control for the Dinos, but Mount Royal was able to maintain a two-point advantage, or larger, through the remainder of play. A kill from Donaghy closed out the set for the Cougars, notching a 25-21 win.
The decisive fifth set began with a 5-0 run from Calgary, but the Cougars battled back to come within two, at 5-3. Kills from Laura McManes, Beth Vinnell and Amber Adolf kicked the Dinos ahead 11-5. While the Cougars answered with a few of her own, the Dinos were able to hold off the Cougars through the set. Calgary ended the set the way they came in, with another Pexman kill, recording the win 15-10.
Pexman paced Calgary with 17 kills, while Vinnell added nine kills and six digs. Adolf notched five kills and two service aces, while McManes and Jaylynn Moffatt added eight kills apiece. Leah Shevkenek recorded 30 helpers, as Kennedy Snape tallied a total of 12 digs.
Mount Royal's Donaghy led the offence with a match-high of 26 kills, while Haley Roe followed with 10 kills of her own and five blocks. Nataliia Klimenova had 22 digs and six helpers, while Allisa Dandenault notched 41 assists and three aces.
The volleyball edition of the Crowchild Classic will continue tomorrow night from Mount Royal. Coming into tonight, the Dinos had already clinched the annual competition between the two schools, winning 11 of the first 16 meetings in basketball, hockey, and soccer.