Dinos’ volleyball fan almost never cheers for U of A teams

Title: Dinos’ volleyball fan almost never cheers for U of A teams
Date: January 4, 2013
Original Source: The Edmonton Journal
Synopsis: I am doing a short internship over the holidays at The Edmonton Journal. My latest piece was a feature on the U of Calgary – U of Alberta sports rivalry. This article appeared in the Jan. 5 edition of the Edmonton Journal.

Fans have been making the three-hour drive for the Battle of Alberta for years.

But that’s usually for an NHL game between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, not a volleyball match between the University of Alberta Pandas and the University of Calgary Dinos in a tournament.

But that’s exactly what Dionne Perry of Calgary did, making the trip to the Saville Community Sports Centre to cheer on the Dinos and root against the Pandas. With 15 games being played over three days in the New Year’s Classic, visiting family for the holidays was a perfect cover to come to Edmonton and sneak in some volleyball.

“This was the day I had open to come watch,” said Perry. “Of course, I’m a huge Calgary fan. I wanted to come down and also watch the Japanese team play.”

A huge fan is a fair claim for Perry, who watches just about every Dinos’ home game. While he’s not a Calgary alumni, it wasn’t difficult to spot him in the bleachers with a Dinos shirt, not to mention a Calgary Stampeders cap.

With the tournament games basically exhibition matches for teams to shake off the rust before the second half of the season gets underway, Perry wasn’t at his loudest Friday. But he was loud enough to be noticed rooting for the Regina Cougars when they played Alberta in the afternoon. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, after all.

“I cheered for U of A in 2006-07 in the CIS,” said Perry. “But I’m going to keep cheering for Calgary and I’ll never cheer for Alberta.”

Unless, of course, it’s the nationals again.

“Well, if a Canada West team wins, the conference gets more berths next year,” said Perry.

While his rooting didn’t seem to bother the Pandas, who beat Regina 3-0, the Dinos recognized the familiar face in the crowd.

“We definitely know he’s behind us,” said Dinos head coach Natalie Schwartz.

The rivalry is set to pick back up next weekend, when the 6-6 Dinos host the Pandas, who are second in the Canada West with a 10-2 record and are ranked third in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport top-10 poll. The two-game series will be the first regular-season action for either team since early December.

They’ll also get a chance to feel each other out on Saturday night in a tournament match.

“I think it’s a very healthy rivalry that has evolved over the years,” said Pandas head coach Laurie Eisler. “The teams bring out the best in each other. Our matches are always great battles with a lot of familiarity and intensity, regardless of the context.”

That familiarity comes from the fact that the teams play each other regularly each year, especially in exhibition competition. In this year’s pre-season alone, they played four times, with Alberta winning three of those contests.

In the past three seasons, the teams went head-to-head six times in conference play, with Alberta winning five, and squared off in the 2010-11 playoffs, where the Pandas swept the two-game series.

“We call it the Battle of Alberta for a reason,” said Schwartz. “All the girls played club volleyball against each other growing up, so there are some long-standing rivalries from that, too. We always want to be the ones walking out with the win.”

With two regular-season games on tap as soon as next weekend, the coaches are playing any new second-half strategies close to the chest.

“It’s one thing to bring new tactics in practice,” said Eisler. “And another to bring them in under pressure. But we didn’t show all of our cards today.”

When the teams square off on Saturday, they may be playing a different game than they’ll play next weekend at Jack Simpson Gym in Calgary. But one element of next weekend’s games could be involved on Saturday, if his family will allow it.

“It’ll depend. My brother is having a baby so I have to help him with some stuff,” Perry said with a wink. “Maybe.”


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