Slow start proves costly as out-of-sync Griffins swept by nationally-ranked Bobcats

Kai Hesthammer led the Griffins with nine kills in a 3-0 loss at Brandon on Friday night (Chris Piggott photo).
Kai Hesthammer led the Griffins with nine kills in a 3-0 loss at Brandon on Friday night (Chris Piggott photo).

MacEwan Athletics and Brandon Athletics

BRANDON – There have been a few times the Griffins men's volleyball team has hung in tough against the veritable plethora of nationally-ranked teams in Canada West.

Friday night was not one of them.

The No. 5 Brandon University Bobcats made short work of the visiting Griffins, who were out of sync early and often in a 3-0 defeat (25-15, 25-15, 25-22).

"We just weren't very good," said MacEwan head coach Brad Poplawski, whose team falls to 2-17 on the season. "They're a very good team and it took us two sets to get going.

"We pushed them a little bit in the third, but the first two sets, it was pretty easy for them."

BU got off to a strong start in the first set going up 8-2 and taking a 16-10 lead into the technical timeout. The home side then sealed up the opener by closing on a 6-1 run.

The Griffins looked nothing like the strong team that Poplawski saw in warm-ups.

"I know it's obviously just warm-up, but I see guys and they look strong, they're hitting high and hard and then five minutes later the match starts and we're setting balls in really weird places and hitters are going up rolling into the bottom of the net," he said.

"I don't know what changes in five minutes where we go from this team hitting high and hard and confident. I don't know if it's too much respect for their block or we're putting too much pressure (on ourselves), but it's weird we can look so good one minute and so raw in another."

In the second, the Griffins continued to reel as the Bobcats built a comfortable cushion on the backs of a 7-2 run. BU then finished the second set with a quick 4-1 burst of offence to push MacEwan to the brink.

BU took an early 7-3 advantage in the third set, but the Griffins gained ground and tied it 11-11. The third set was deadlocked at 21-21 before the Bobcats delivered down the stretch. BU scored three straight points to pull ahead for the final time at 24-21.

Elliott Viles was BU's top scorer with 10 kills. Seth Friesen added nine and Matt Powell provided eight for the Bobcats.

Kai Hesthammer had nine kills for the Griffins, while Shane Kerrison had six.

Brandon moves to 13-6 as they hang onto fourth place in Canada West and aim to lock up home-court advantage in the playoffs. The teams will meet again on Saturday (5:45 p.m. MT, Canada West TV).

Poplawski noted the Griffins' adjustments start in the mind.

"We talked about putting less pressure on ourselves to start well and just play," he said. "Don't worry about anything else.

"The one thing for us was our passing was much better than it has been. It's something we've worked pretty hard on the last couple of weeks in training. I'm glad our passes did a good job. From there, we've got to find a few more ways to score and defend on these guys because we didn't dig well. We didn't serve well either, so basically every facet of the game needs to be better tomorrow."