Cougars win Winnipeg volleyball tournament
by Chris Jaster
The University of Regina women’s volleyball team travelled to Winnipeg to compete in the BOB FM Volleyball Challenge Championship. The women struggled in the first day of competition, but recovered with two victories to place in the top two teams and earned the right to play the University of Winnipeg Wesmen in the final.
The women won the championship in five sets, an improvement over their fourth place finish at the Cougar Invitational last weekend.
The Cougars opened the tournament against the Wesmen on the Friday. The girls struggled during the game. After falling short, 25-23, in the first set, the Wesmen started to take control of the game by winning the second set 25-16 and the third set 25-17.
The Cougars got their act together as they took on the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. The Cougars opened up the game winning the first two sets 25-19 and 25-22. The Cougars lost their rhythm and the next two sets 25-16 and 25-13. The girls went into the fifth and final set, only to continue to struggle and lose 15-10.
With only two games remaining in the round robin part of the tournament, the girls knew they had to get their act in gear if they were going to get into the finals.
The Cougars went into Saturday winning their first game in three sets 25-15, 25-14 and 25-13 over the Martlets.
With a chance to get into the championship game, the Cougars had to face the University of Manitoba Bisons. The Bisons kept the games close, but were unable to find the finishing touches to defeat the Cougars in any of the sets. The Cougars defeated the Bisons in straight sets 25-19, 25-23 and 25-20. The win gave the Cougars a 2-2 record with a plus-4 plus/minus for sets won.
“We talked about letting Friday destroy us as a team or build us as a team,” explains head coach Melanie Sanford about what was said between the days. “The team took the high road and showed a lot of character.”
The Cougars qualified for the championship game against the University of Winnipeg, who went a perfect 4-0 in the round robin part of the competition.
The Wesmen jumped out to winning the first set 25-14 before the Cougars rebounded with 25-19 and 25-20 wins in the second and third sets respectively. Winnipeg fought back to win the fourth set 25-14. The deciding set was a difficult for both sides, but the Cougars were able to win it 16-14 and win the championship.
“It’s good psychologically to beat the University of Winnipeg in their own gym,” says Sanford, referring to the two previous losses the Cougars had to the Wesmen earlier in the season. “Any time we post wins, especially against Canada West teams, is good.”
Kristen Armstrong, who was named a tournament all-star, is happy with what the title brings the team, “It gives us confidence for what’s coming up. We are a cohesive group and we are getting to know each other.
“I believe we have the potential and talent to get to nationals.”
Falin Schaefer of the Cougars was also named the most valuable player of the tournament.
The Cougars play next in the Huskie Classic in Saskatoon this weekend.
“We’re getting better with each tournament and we are working better together as a team, says Armstrong.”