Laval ousts Calgary in first game of national championships

Frédéric Mondou (5) of the Laval Rouge et Or blocks a hit by Allen Meek (10) of the Calgary Dinos at the 2012 CIS men's volleyball championship.
Frédéric Mondou (5) of the Laval Rouge et Or blocks a hit by Allen Meek (10) of the Calgary Dinos at the 2012 CIS men's volleyball championship.

One day after missing out on the CIS MVP award, three-time Quebec Player of the Year Karl De Grandpré dominated the opening game of the men’s volleyball national championship at the ARC, leading the third-seeded Laval Rouge et Or to a 3-1 win over the sixth-seeded Calgary Dinos.

De Grandpré, who led the CIS with 5.1 points per set this season, recorded 22 kills on Friday. He said he was thrilled with the result.

“It’s a great start,” he said. “We knew Calgary from playing them [in an exhibition tournament on Jan. 7] and we expected a tough game.”

De Grandpré was up against Trinity Western setter Ben Ball, Queen’s outside hitter Joren Zeeman and University of New Brunswick outside hitter Julio Fernandez for CIS MVP. Ball won the award, but De Grandpré said it didn’t bother him.

“I don’t care about it,” he said. “I just want to keep playing volleyball this weekend.”

Although the Rouge et Or are Canada’s only undefeated team, they struggled to find their rhythm early on, dropping the first set 25-23. Rouge et Or head coach Pascal Clément said his team looked nervous.

“We had some opportunities we didn’t take … we missed about five easy points,” he said. “I told the guys that, in crunch time, we have to score.”

Laval won the next three sets 25-19, 25-22, 25-15. Clément said his team was fine once De Grandpré found his rhythm and Quebec Rookie of the Year Tommy Bélisle started scoring.

“I’m very pleased with [Bélisle], especially after struggling with injuries all year,” Clément said. “But the whole team played as expected.”

The two teams kicked off to a full house at the ARC on Friday, thanks to a large number of Kingston youths, who were in the stands because of a partnership between Queen’s Athletics and local elementary schools.

“In terms of promoting the game for kids, it’s awesome,” Clément said. “We’re going to think about this idea for next season when we host the national championship.”

Laval now awaits the winner of this afternoon’s quarter-final match between the Manitoba Bisons and the Western Mustangs. Clément said he doesn’t care who his team plays tomorrow.

Meanwhile, it’s the first time since 2009 that the Dinos haven’t qualified for the CIS final four. Head coach Rod Durrant said his team started brightly, but was exhausted by the fourth set.

Dinos outside hitter Graham Vigrass, CIS MVP in 2011, posted 17 kills in his last-ever game for Calgary. Durrant said he’ll be hard to replace.

“[Vigrass] deserves everything he’s won,” he said. “He’s a team leader and he showed it today.”

After the game, Durrant said Laval will contend for the gold medal.

“At this tournament, it’s about the team that plays the most consistently,” he said. “They’re definitely in the hunt.”

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