2014 CIS women’s volleyball championship, presented by SGI CANADA

- February 26, 2014

The Tigers hope to continue their season of victory at the CIS women's volleyball championship in Regina this weekend.

OTTAWA (CIS) – The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, already the most decorated program in CIS women’s volleyball history with 10 national titles to its credit, hope to enter the record books once again this weekend as the first team to win seven straight banners in the sport.

CHAMPIONSHIP WEBSITE: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/wvball/index

The 2014 CIS championship, presented by SGI CANADA, runs from Friday to Sunday at the University of Regina. All 11 matches from the eight-team competition will be webcast live on www.CIS-SIC.tv, including the gold-medal final at 6 p.m. Central Time. 

The Canada West champion T-Birds are once again the top seed for the tournament – for the second straight season and the fourth time in five years. Also competing for CIS supremacy this week will be the No. 2 Manitoba Bisons (Canada West finalists), No. 3 Trinity Western Spartans (Canada West bronze medallists), No. 4 Laval Rouge et Or (RSEQ champs), No. 5 McMaster Marauders (OUA champs), No. 6 Dalhousie Tigers (AUS champs), No. 7 Ottawa Gee-Gees (OUA finalists) and No. 8 Regina Cougars (hosts).

Friday’s quarter-finals will see Trinity Western and Dalhousie battle in the 1 p.m. opener, followed by Manitoba vs. Ottawa at 3 p.m., UBC vs. host Regina at 6 p.m., and Laval vs. McMaster at 8 p.m.

The Thunderbirds secured their No. 1 status with a straight-set win over Manitoba in last Saturday’s Canada West final. Should they triumph on Sunday, they would not only make women’s volleyball history, they would also equal the longest streak in CIS annals in a team sport, matching Victoria’s seven consecutive men’s basketball titles from 1980 to 1986.

Along with Manitoba, Trinity Western and Regina, UBC also hopes to resume the Canada West domination in women’s volleyball, as teams currently competing in the CWUAA (including schools from the now defunct Great Plains conference) have won 33 of the last 37 national banners.

Despite the loss of key talent from last year’s championship squad, including two-time CIS player of the year Shanice Marcelle, UBC is enjoying yet another spectacular season. The Vancouver powerhouse finished first in their ultra-competitive conference with an 18-4 mark and shows a 24-5 overall record against CIS rivals.

The undisputed leader of the 2013-14 T-Birds is fourth-year outside hitter Lisa Barclay, who recently earned her first Canada West player-of-the-year award and who was named MVP of the last two CIS tourneys.  

While they are overwhelming favourites on paper, the defending champs are not likely to take their first-round opponents lightly. In front of a potentially hostile crowd, the Thunderbirds will have to deal with a host team that beat them 3-2 in their own gym in pre-season action (Oct. 6) and took them to five sets again in one of two league contests in late November, in Regina. 

Following a slow start to the regular season, the Cougars were stellar after the December break winning nine of their last 10 league games. They were brought back to earth by Trinity Western in the conference quarter-finals however, dropping back-to-back 3-0 decisions. 

“Our team is really looking forward to Nationals. All season long we battled in a very tough and competitive conference and it was arguably one of the most unpredictable and exciting seasons we have had in CanWest,” says Doug Reimer, in his 17th campaign at the helm at UBC. “Hopefully we will play our best volleyball of the season against some of the top teams in the country. Our focus has never been to defend a title - it is always about playing each point, each set, each match to the best of our ability and that is the focus we will have this weekend in Regina.”

“We’ve got a great opportunity to perform in front of what should be a fantastic home crowd and we’re looking forward to the challenge,” says Regina’s Melanie Sanford, whose troops return to the event for the first time since a fifth-place finish in 2010. “Our team has worked exceptionally hard all season long knowing that we’d have this opportunity at the end of the season and we’re looking to continue the momentum we’ve built up over the second half of the schedule.”

Second-ranked Manitoba is another top seed that can’t afford to overlook its quarter-final opponent. The Bisons lost 3-2 to Ottawa in the nation’s capital in the pre-season, on Oct. 17. 

Both teams are coming off straight-set losses in their conference finals against UBC and McMaster, respectively.

“We had a tremendous match against a very strong Trinity Western squad in our Canada West semifinal and were able to win and secure a berth to the CIS Nationals,” says long-time Manitoba head coach Ken Bentley, whose program could tie Winnipeg and Alberta for second place all-time with a seventh CIS banner, but hasn’t triumphed on the national stage since 2002. “Although we fell short in the conference final, we are very excited to get back and play at the CIS championship.”

“Our trip to Nationals last year gave us the experience and composure to win the OUA semifinal last weekend, but with our team this year our best experience has been the last three weeks,” says Ottawa bench boss Lionel Woods, who led his side to fourth place at the 2013 CIS tournament. “We just played a top-five match against McMaster and our schedule at the end of the season was very high level. It’s wide open this year, and we’re just going to go in and do the same, go at it.”

Speaking of the OUA champion Marauders, the McMaster-Laval quarter-final – Friday’s nightcap at 8 p.m. – will pit two programs at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to CIS championship experience.

McMaster is about to make its third appearance at the tourney, following a sixth-place finish in 2008 and a tie for seventh two years ago.

Laval, on the other hand, captured the CIS crown in 2006 and is making its 32nd trip in 36 years to the competition. The Rouge et Or upset heavily-favoured Montreal in the best-of-three RSEQ final, erasing a two-sets-to-one deficit on the road in the third and decisive contest.

“Our team goals were more within our own conference this year, so to make it to the national championship is somewhat of a bonus,” says Olivier Caron, who is back on the Laval sidelines this season after leading the team for one campaign back in 1998-99. “We hope to play three strong matches in Regina. We don’t know our first-round opponents very well but they’ve earned the right to be there and we’ll have to be ready.”

“It has been a long hard remarkable road with this young group of players. Regina and the CIS championship (inherently) has always been the goal. It may have been remote in the beginning but this group has shaped its identity through the year and a little belief has gotten us a long way,” says McMaster head coach Tim Louks. “This team is starting to show characteristics displayed at the CIS level in women’s volleyball. We will begin another test when we arrive in Regina to see how we fair as we battle the best teams in the country. We will find out how far we have come and how far we have to go to perform and perform consistently well on the national scene.” 

Trinity Western and Dalhousie will kick off the CIS championship for the second straight year. Last winter, in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup, the Spartans prevailed in straight sets, 25-13, 25-18 and 25-19.

Making its fourth straight appearance at the tourney, TWU has claimed CIS bronze in both 2011 and 2013 but is still looking for that elusive first title. After dropping a 3-0 decision to Manitoba in their Canada West semifinal last weekend, the Spartans rebounded nicely against UBC Okanagan in the bronze-medal match, winning 3-1 to qualify for Nationals.

Dalhousie, which won its lone CIS title back in 1982, has been dominant since the start of 2014, losing only one set en route to a 9-0 mark, including a sweep of Saint Mary’s in the AUS final. However, the Tigers have struggled this season against opponents from other conferences, going 2-6 in those contests.

“Since the start of August, we’ve been working towards this week,” says TWU coach Ryan Hofer. “We’ve been preparing for this weekend all year and have been aiming to be at our best for these three days. We’re excited that we have a shot to be here and we’re aiming to as deep as we can in this tournament. We’ve put in the time, the effort, the video work and the practice to get ready for the national tournament and I believe we’ve positioned ourselves to try to take a run at a championship.”

“Our team is very excited about the challenge and opportunity of the national championship,” says Dalhousie’s Rick Scott. “We understand that there are eight very good teams but we believe that our team is playing excellent volleyball right now and have been really focused on getting better each week. We believe that the experience of being at the national championship last year will serve our team well and we are looking forward to competing with the best teams in the country.”

NOTES: Winnipeg (1983-1988) and Alberta (1995-2000) have also won six straight CIS women’s volleyball titles... In individual sports, the longest CIS championship streaks in history are held by UBC in women’s swimming (11), UBC in men’s swimming (10), Brock in men’s wrestling (10), Guelph in women’s cross country (9 and counting) and Guelph in men’s cross country (8 and counting).

PARTICIPATING TEAMS

No. 1 UBC Thunderbirds

Head coach: Doug Reimer (17th season)

Regular season record: 18-4

Regular season standing: 1st Canada West

Playoff record: 2-0

Playoff finish: Canada West champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 24-5

Top 10 final ranking (Feb. 11): No. 1  

Top 10 best ranking: No. 1 (all 13 weeks)

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

Conference award winners: Lisa Barclay (MVP)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Lisa Barclay (OH), Rosie Schlagintweit (OH)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: None

CIS championship best result: 10-time champions (2008 to 2013, 1978, 1977, 1974, 1973)

CIS championship last appearance: 2013 (champions)

CIS championship sequence: 19th appearance in 20 years (missed 2007)

No. 2 Manitoba Bisons

Head coach: Ken Bentley (28th season)

Regular season record: 14-8

Regular season standing: 4th Canada West

Playoff record: 3-1

Playoff finish: Canada West finalists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 29-15

Top 10 final ranking (Feb. 11): No. 5   

Top 10 best ranking: No. 4 (3 weeks)

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

Conference award winners: None

Conference 1st team all-stars: None

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Brittany Habing (S), Taylor Pischke (LS)

CIS championship best result: 6-time champions (2002, 2001, 1992, 1991, 1990, 1971)

CIS championship last appearance: 2010 (finalists)

CIS championship sequence: Return after 3-year absence

No. 3 Trinity Western Spartans

Head coach: Ryan Hofer (9th season)

Regular season record: 17-5

Regular season standing: 3rd Canada West

Playoff record: 3-1

Playoff finish: Canada West bronze medallists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 26-7

Top 10 final ranking (Feb. 11): No. 3   

Top 10 best ranking: No. 2 (5 weeks)

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

Conference award winners: None

Conference 1st team all-stars: Sophie Carpentier (OH)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Alicia Perrin (M)

CIS championship best result: Bronze (2013, 2011)

CIS championship last appearance: 2013 (bronze)

CIS championship sequence: 4th consecutive appearance

No. 4 Laval Rouge et Or

Head coach: Olivier Caron (2nd season: 1998-99 & 2013-14)

Regular season record: 13-6

Regular season standing: 2nd RSEQ

Playoff record: 4-2

Playoff finish: RSEQ champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 19-9

Top 10 final ranking (Feb. 11): No. 9   

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

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (13 polls): 9

Conference award winners: None

Conference 1st team all-stars: Esther Gilbert (RS)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Ève Thibault (OH), Sophie Dallaire (M)

CIS championship best result: 1-time champions (2006)

CIS championship last appearance: 2013 (6th place)

CIS championship sequence: 2nd consecutive appearance (32nd in 36 years)

No. 5 McMaster Marauders

Head coach: Tim Louks (25th season)

Regular season record: 13-6

Regular season standing: 2nd OUA West

Playoff record: 3-0

Playoff finish: OUA champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 27-12

Top 10 final ranking (Feb. 11): Unranked   

Top 10 best ranking: Unranked all season

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (13 polls): 0

Conference award winners (OUA West): Amanda Weldon (student-athlete & community service)

Conference 1st team all-stars (OUA West): Sophie Bukovec (OH)

Conference 2nd team all-stars (OUA West): Maicee Sorensen (M), Taylor Brisebois (M)

CIS championship best result: 6th place (2008)

CIS championship last appearance: 2012 (tied 7th place)

CIS championship sequence: 3rd appearance in team history (2014, 2012, 2008)

No. 6 Dalhousie Tigers

Head coach: Rick Scott (6th season)

Regular season record: 12-4

Regular season standing: 1st AUS

Playoff record: 2-0

Playoff finish: AUS champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 18-7

Top 10 final ranking (Feb. 11): No. 8   

Top 10 best ranking: No. 8 (1 week)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (13 polls): 5

Conference award winners: Maggie Li (MVP)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Maggie Li (M), Desiree Nouwen (LS)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Tara Gowan (RS)

CIS championship best result: 1-time champions (1982)

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

CIS championship sequence: 2nd consecutive appearance

No. 7 Ottawa Gee-Gees

Head coach: Lionel Woods (22nd season)

Regular season record: 14-5

Regular season standing: 3rd OUA East

Playoff record: 2-1

Playoff finish: OUA finalists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 25-7

Top 10 final ranking (Feb. 11): No. 10   

Top 10 best ranking: No. 6 (1 week)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (13 polls): 12

Conference award winners (OUA East): Myriam English (MVP)

Conference 1st team all-stars (OUA East): Myriam English (LS), Kelsie English (RS)

Conference 2nd team all-stars (OUA East): None

CIS championship best result: Finalists (1980)

CIS championship last appearance: 2013 (4th place)

CIS championship sequence: 2nd consecutive appearance

No. 8 Regina Cougars

Head coach: Melanie Sanford (12th season)

Regular season record: 12-10

Regular season standing: 6th Canada West

Playoff record: 0-2

Playoff finish: Canada West quarter-finalists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 21-20

Top 10 final ranking (Feb. 11): Unranked   

Top 10 best ranking: Unranked all season

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (13 polls): 0

Conference award winners: Leah Shevkenek (rookie)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Desiree Ates (OH)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Michelle Sweeting (M)

CIS championship best result: 4th place (1990)

CIS championship last appearance: 2010 (5th place)

CIS championship sequence: Return after 3-year absence

CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (all times CENTRAL TIME)

Thursday, February 27

18:45 All-Canadian Awards Reception (Casino Regina Show Lounge)

Friday, February 28

13:00 Quarter-final #1: No. 3 Trinity Western vs. No. 6 Dalhousie (www.CIS-SIC.tv)  

15:00 Quarter-final #2: No. 2 Manitoba vs. No. 7 Ottawa (www.CIS-SIC.tv)  

18:00 Quarter-final #3: No. 1 UBC vs. No. 8 Regina (www.CIS-SIC.tv)  

20:00 Quarter-final #4: No. 4 Laval vs. No. 5 McMaster (www.CIS-SIC.tv)  

Saturday, March 1

13:00 Consolation #1: Loser quarter-final #1 vs. Loser quarter-final #2 (www.CIS-SIC.tv)  

15:00 Consolation #2: Loser quarter-final #3 vs. Loser quarter-final #4 (www.CIS-SIC.tv)   

18:00 Semifinal #1: Winner quarter-final #1 vs. Winner quarter-final #2 (www.CIS-SIC.tv)  

20:00 Semifinal #2: Winner quarter-final #3 vs. Winner quarter-final #4 (www.CIS-SIC.tv)   

Sunday, March 2

13:00 5th place (www.CIS-SIC.tv)  

15:00 Bronze medal (www.CIS-SIC.tv)   

18:00 Championship final (www.CIS-SIC.tv)  


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