Serving – good and bad – proves to be difference in Griffins' 3-1 loss to Heat

MacEwan's Jordan Peters and UBCO's Morgan Nichols contest a ball at the net on Friday (Robert Antoniuk photo).
MacEwan's Jordan Peters and UBCO's Morgan Nichols contest a ball at the net on Friday (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Mounting serving errors proved costly for the MacEwan Griffins in a 3-1 defeat to the visiting UBC-Okanagan Heat in Canada West men's volleyball action on Friday night.

Among 17 errors from the service line, was one that hit the back wall before the floor, punctuating a frustrating night for head coach Brad Poplawski's troops.

"Our serving was embarrassing," he said. "It's embarrassing to serve that poorly at this level."

Conversely, UBCO was able to find its stride from the service line, using eight aces to put pressure on the Griffins and record a 30-28, 25-12, 20-25, 25-18 victory.

"I think that was really big," said Heat head coach Brad Hudson. "Obviously, we know that Brad's got a great team as well and they were definitely starting to kind of show their level. We knew we needed to find a way to create more service pressure. That was the big (difference) is we created a little more service pressure, whereas we'd been safe for a little while and let them settle in.

"I think that obviously gave the rest of our game a little more confidence creating that pressure."

The first set was a dandy marathon that went UBCO's way, but MacEwan had three set points to close it out before the score hit the 30s. Each time, the Griffins were unable to put away the winning point. Eventually, UBCO's Lars Bornemann blasted a big kill off the block to end it.

The Heat gained momentum off that early in the second set and skated into the technical timeout up 16-8. They continued cruising from there, wrapping up a 25-12 victory on Max Heppel's kill from the left side.

The Griffins proved they weren't going quietly, though, as they took control of the third set and never let go, winning it when Kornel Kowalewski blocked Josh Harvey in the middle.

But just as quickly as they got back into the match, though, they played their well out of it in the fourth set. There were missed serves and errors from the Griffins before a passing miscommunication led to a ball falling untouched in their back court – a moment that pretty much summed up their night. Bornemann finally ended the match with a kill off the block.

Rookie Ryan Zachary led the Griffins with 16 kills and nine digs, while Kai Hesthammer chipped in 13 kills, four digs and three blocks. Caleb Weiss had 32 assists.

UBCO was led by 14 kills each from Bornemann and Devon Cote, while Eli Russo had a game-high 11 digs, Harvey had five blocks and Morgan Nichols produced 28 assists.

"It's funny. Both teams are actually very similar," said Hudson. "We both have three or four young guys that both programs are really high on and then a couple fourth and fifth-year guys that both teams are really high on. We're almost mirror images of each other.

"I think, we just found a way to be a little bit more efficient offensively. That was a big piece. Again, that serve-pass stability probably served us, pardon the pun, well."

With the win, UBCO improves to 2-5 on the season, while the Griffins fall to 0-5. They will meet each other again on Saturday (6:30 p.m., Atkinson Gym).