Cougars Begin Pre-Season in Calgary

(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

CALGARY -- Twelve weeks out from the start of the BYU men's volleyball 2010-11 regular season, the Cougars will travel to Calgary for the 24th Annual Husky Dino Cup in the Jack Simpson Gym.

The presence of NCAA teams has long been a feature of the Husky Dino Cup – but recent rule changes by the U.S. governing body mean the pool of available teams has begun to shrink. Under new regulations, teams are unable to fly for non-conference competition, unless their nearest rival is outside a pre-determined radius. As a result, the days of UCLA and Stanford making the trip to Calgary are over – at least under the current rules.

The Brigham Young University Cougars from Provo, Utah are one of the few teams left with the ability to fly, and they will provide the American presence at this year’s edition of the Husky Dino Cup.

BYU finished the 2009-10 season at No. 2 in the U.S. national coaches’ poll, despite not earning an invite to the NCAA tournament after posting an overall record of 22-9 (15-7 MPSF). The Cougars lost the services of All-American outside hitter Andrew Stewart due to graduation, but junior middle Futi Tavana also earned All-America honours and is back for his third season. Middle Russell Lavaja and right side hitter Robb Stowell were both named to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation’s all-conference team.

With just one U.S. team in attendance this weekend, the door opens for another Canada West squad to join the tournament – and the Dinos have brought in the Alberta Golden Bears and the Saskatchewan Huskies.

The Golden Bears were ranked No. 1 in the inaugural CIS Top 10 of the season this week after a dominant performance at their own tournament, the Husky Can-Am Challenge, last weekend in Edmonton. By reciprocal agreement the Dinos competed in the Can-Am last weekend and the Golden Bears make their first appearance at the Husky Dino Cup since 2001. It’s a tournament that has never been won by the University of Alberta, but the Bears have as good a shot as any this weekend.

The host Dinos, of course, are defending CIS champions after coming all the way from the sixth seed to capture the program’s first national title since 1993 last March in Kamloops, B.C. That championship weekend included an epic 3-2 win over Alberta in the national semi-final, dethroning the two-time defending national champions. The Bears exacted some measure of revenge last week with a 3-1 victory in their tournament, but the Dinos will be looking to turn those tables in the feature match of the 2010 Husky Dino Cup Thursday night at 8 p.m.

Calgary lost six seniors to graduation following the national title, but the core of that championship team remains intact. CIS tournament MVP Graham Vigrass enters his fourth year and will look to make a season-long impact after missing much of last year with mono. Setters Jay Blankenau and Ciaran McGovern are two of the best in the nation, while left side Curtis James and middle David Egan are also back from last year’s starting lineup.

The Dinos welcome back right side Allen Meek, who returns to the team after a one-year hiatus, while a trio of transfers from Mount Royal – Levi Nutma, Andrew Visser, and Jace Richards – will provide added depth. Calgary will open the tournament looking to rebound from a disappointing outing last weekend in Edmonton, where they posted a 1-3 record. After falling to both Hawaii and Alberta on Day 1, the Dinos defeated the Manitoba Bisons before falling to Guelph in a shocking 3-2 result after leading the match two sets to none.

Calgary is No. 5 in the inaugural CIS Top 10.

The Huskies, meanwhile, have been rebuilding of late and posted a 6-12 record last season, finishing one spot out of the playoffs. Winners of the inaugural Dino Cup title back in 1987, Saskatchewan is led by fourth-year middle Geoff Zerr and will look to make some noise in Canada West this season.

The 2010 edition of the Dino Cup will once again feature a pair of women’s matches as the Dinos take on their archrivals, the Alberta Pandas. The Calgary women will also be looking to rebound from an unexpected defeat – in their case, a 2-0 lead became a 3-2 loss to the Dalhousie Tigers in the final of the McGill tournament last weekend in Montreal.

Calgary has posted a 7-4 record to this point in non-conference play, with four of those wins coming in their five matches in Montreal last week. The Dinos defeated the Montreal Carabins twice in the span of six hours to qualify for the final before falling to Dalhousie.

The Dinos open the season at No. 9 in the CIS Top 10, while the Pandas sit at No. 3.

Both Calgary teams take next week off before opening conference play at home Nov. 5-6 when they host the Winnipeg Wesmen. The Dinos men will raise their 2009-10 CIS championship banner to the rafters of the Jack Simpson Gym prior to their home opener Friday, Nov. 5.

2010 Husky Dino Cup

TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

All matches in the Jack Simpson Gym

Thursday, Oct. 21

6 p.m. Women: CALGARY vs. Alberta*

8 p.m. Men: CALGARY vs. Alberta*

Friday, Oct. 22

11 a.m. Men: Alberta vs. BYU

1 p.m. Men: CALGARY vs. Saskatchewan

5:30 p.m. Men: Saskatchewan vs. Alberta*

7 p.m. Men: CALGARY vs. BYU*

Saturday, Oct. 23

11 a.m. Men: BYU vs. Saskatchewan

3 p.m. Men: Bronze Medal Match

5 p.m. Women: CALGARY vs. Alberta*

7 p.m. Men: Gold Medal Match*

*live webcast at www.goDINOS.com/dinovision