CIS quarterfinal #1: No. 2 Laval off to first semi-final in 7 years
Courtesy of U of Alberta sports information
EDMONTON (CIS) - The No. 2-seeded Laval Rouge et Or are heading to the semi-final round of the CIS men's volleyball championship for the first time since 2002 thanks to a tight straight-set victory (25-23, 25-22, 25-20) over the No. 7 Winnipeg Wesmen in the opening match of the 2009 national tournament, Friday afternoon, at the University of Alberta.
Quebec champion Laval, which went 18-0 in QSSF conference play, advances to Saturday's first semi-final at 6:30 p.m. Mountain Time, where they will face the winners of the quarterfinal duel between No. 3 McMaster and No. 6 Thompson Rivers.
The Rouge et Or had dropped six consecutive quarterfinal matches to Canada West opponents since a 3-0 win over Calgary in 2002, also at the U of A gym.
Laval, making their 12th straight appearance at the national championship, is the last team from outside of Canada West to have won the Tantramar trophy, taking the hardware to Quebec in 1994. Head coach Pascal Clement has arguably one of the strongest teams in Edmonton and now that they have exorcised their opening match demons, stand a good chance to play for gold.
"We've been waiting since 2002 to win this opening match in what is always a tough tournament," exclaimed Clement. "Winnipeg played a very tough match, especially in the beginning, but we adapted very well to their system and came back and played how we needed to, in order to win."
The Wesmen, who defeated Laval in the opening round in 2007 en route to their record-tying 10th Tantramar trophy victory, will play in Saturday's first consolation match at 1 p.m. MT. Winnipeg had also reached the national final a year ago against Alberta.
Leading Laval on the attack was Karl De Grandpré (Pierreville, Que.), who belted 17 kills, while player-of-the-match honours went to CIS first-team all-Canadian outside Thierry Lavigne (Rockland, Ont.), who recorded 15 kills, one of two Laval aces and seven digs.
"They say big players are supposed to shine in big game, and I guess I had a pretty good game today," Lavigne said. "Everyone on the team did their job today, and I just did mine."
Outside Andrew Town and setter Daniel Lother, both of Winnipeg, paced the Wesmen, with Town recording 14 kills while Lother dished out 38 assists, six digs and two blocks.
Justin Duff, a 6-foot-7 middle also from Winnipeg, was named player of the match for the Canada West semi-finalists after he banked 11 kills and an impressive 60% attack efficiency.
Although the Wesmen bowed out in straight sets, they were competitive up until the final whistle. The biggest deficit the Wesmen ever faced was a seven-point gap in the third set at 20-13, but after a time-out by head coach Larry McKay, they rolled out a 5-0 run to cut the gap to 20-18.
Through both the first and second sets, Winnipeg never trailed by any more than two points - except at the end of the second frame - and several times, held two-point leads of their own.
The two teams were neck-and-neck through the opening two stanzas, literally trading leads back and forth, right up until match point. The difference for the Rouge et Or proved to be their ability to adapt to Winnipeg's offence. Laval recorded 12 total blocks by match end, allowing them to stop Winnipeg's attack and gain control of the sets.
After stopping Winnipeg's momentum in the third, Lavinge spun a service ace to put Laval up 22-18 and a spectacular solo block by Frederic Desbiens gave them the match point. After the Wesmen stormed back to make it 24-20, Lother sent his serve long, giving the Rouge et Or the match.
Kills: Karl De Grandpré (17), Thierry Lavigne (15), Frédéric Desbiens (14)
Blocks: Jean-François St.-Amour (4)
Digss: Nicholas Quirion (9), Thierry Lavigne (7)
Assists: Olivier Faucher (47)
Player of the match: Thierry Lavigne
Kills: Andrew Town (14), Justin Duff (11)
Blocks: Daniel Lother (2)
Digs: Daniel Lother (6), Paul Kjos (5)
Assists: Daniel Lother (38)
Player of the match: Justin Duff