SMU Huskies

AUS Women's Volleyball Playoff Preview

AUS Women's Volleyball Playoff Preview

Experienced Tigers chase fifth straight women's volleyball title

By Monty Mosher

It's been another outstanding season for the Dalhousie Tigers women's volleyball team. But there is work still to do.

The four-time defending conference champions will go for five this weekend in a four-team tournament at Saint Mary's.

Top-seeded Dalhousie, 19-1, plays fourth-seeded Moncton, 9-11, in the first semifinal on Friday at 4:30 p.m. No. 2 Memorial, 14-6, meets No. 3 Saint Mary's, 11-9, at 7 p.m.

There will be a bronze-medal game Saturday at 4:30 p.m. with the championship game at 7 p.m.

The Tigers, ranked seventh in the country, are stacked and experienced. Their only loss all year was in February at Memorial.

"We believe that we are a well-rounded team that has good depth and experience, which we hope will be key," said Dalhousie coach Rick Scott, in his ninth season with the team.

"We understand that there are three other very good teams in the competition that we respect. We know that there is a target on our back. Our team wants to embrace the target and looks forward to the tough battle and challenge ahead."

Moncton is no pushover despite a losing record. Dalhousie won all four of their matches, but the last two went the distance.

"They are strong defensively and really compete hard," said Scott. "We will need to be ready and match their intensity."

Dalhousie will lean on the veteran leadership of Marissa Mota, Abby Czenze and Amy Appleby, all in their fifth year, and fourth-year Anna Dunn Suen.

It doesn't stop there.

"Courtney BakerMieke DuMont, Tori Haworth and Emma Ciprick are players that have all had very good seasons and are players to watch this weekend," Scott added.

Baker was fourth in kills while Haworth was tops in hitting percentage, Czenze third in assists and Mota third in digs.

Moncton can't match Dalhousie's depth, but Christelle Bertin was second in kills and Rachelle Lemoine second in hitting percentage. Judith Desjardins was second in assists.

"We had some hard-fought matches against Memorial and Dalhousie in the last two weeks of the season and it gave a lot of confidence to the girls," said Moncton coach Monette Boudreau-Carroll.

She said her team understands the Tigers are the team to be beat and they look forward to the opportunity.

"It's going to be hard to play the No. 1 seed, but to get to the U Sports championship we are going to have to beat them. We are taking the challenge head on.

"We are a very good defensive team that will not quit. Our success is based on team play."

Saint Mary's had a bumpy second half, winning five in a row before losing three straight. They ended that streak with a win at UNB on the last day of the regular season.

The Huskies swept Memorial in October in Halifax, but lost three straight to the Sea-Hawks in St. John's in November.

"I really like the match-up versus Memorial," said Huskies coach Darren Russell. "I think we are two very close teams that had some close games this season and I expect the semifinals to be the same."

Saint Mary's, with Erin Smith and Kristina Adler leading the attack, hopes familiar surroundings matter.

"We went 8-3 at home this year and we hope that having home court will be an advantage," said Russell. "It will be good to have friends and family around us.

"Memorial is a very good team that is well coached.  They are returning finalists and we will have to do all the little things right if we are going to beat them."

Memorial's Jill Snow led the conference in kills and Maiya Westwood in assists.

After going 2-3 start to the season at the conference tournament in Halifax, the Sea-Hawks are 12-3.

"Saint Mary's is a tough opponent that we have a ton of respect for," said Memorial coach John Slauenwhite. "But we have worked extremely hard over the last two weeks in preparation for Saint Mary's and feel confident in our semifinal match-up."

Dalhousie defeated Memorial 3-1 in last year's AUS final. The Tigers went on to place sixth at the nationals in Brandon, Man., with a 1-2 record.

This year's tournament will be hosted by the Ryerson Rams in Toronto starting March 17.