MacEwan Athletics and Dinos Athletics
CALGARY – The MacEwan Griffins made it to 24 points in two-thirds of the sets against the Calgary Dinos on Friday afternoon.
Unfortunately, they could never hit 25.
That meant the Dinos romped to a 3-0 Canada West men's volleyball victory (25-16, 26-24, 26-24).
The particularly haunting set for the Griffins will be Set 2, where they led 24-21, but lost five-straight points to steal defeat from the jaws of victory.
"It's the way this season's gone," sighed MacEwan head coach Brad Poplawski, whose team falls to 2-19 in the standings.
"When you're in those situations – and we have to keep putting ourselves in those situations, hopefully – you just have to find a way to make a play," he added. "They made plays when they needed to."
Both teams were hungry for a win and kept it close at the beginning of the match, going point for point. However, the Dinos were able to pull ahead and keep a consistent three-point lead, taking the first set 25-16.
The Griffins really gained their momentum taking the lead early in the second set with strong blocks at the net. MacEwan led the scoring for most of the set with 19-15 and 24-21 scores, but the Dinos staved off three set points and were quickly the first to a two-point advantage.
Buoyed by their comeback, the Dinos came out flying to start the third and led the scoring throughout the set, at one point in commanding 18-9 position. However, the Griffins managed to battle all the way back and tie it up at 24 before kills from Alex Bader and Regan Fathers ended it in the Dinos' favour.
MacEwan's comeback, behind a 5-0 Kai Hesthammer service run, showed a resolve that the Griffins can build off of.
"I'm proud of our fight," said Poplawski. "We changed some things after the first set, but for whatever reason we get close and haven't been able to close it out."
That's happened too many times for the Griffins to count this season and the coach hopes his team is learning from it.
"I know I learn about them when they're in those situations," said Poplawski. "I hope they're learning and seeing what it takes to win. Calgary made some really impressive plays when they needed to. Whether it was a key dig or a key block or executing a free ball properly … just whatever it was that needed to be done, they did it. Their service pressure was good – they were able to hit pretty good zones.
"That's what our guys need to learn how to do in pressure situations."
Despite starting just the final two sets, Jordan Peters led the Griffins with 11 kills on a .364 hitting percentage, adding four digs and a block. Hesthammer had eight kills.
"Jordan Peters put up very good numbers for us offensively," said Poplawski. "He stabilized some things passing for us as well – we moved our passing lineup around a little bit. He was very good for us."
The Dinos snapped a six-match losing streak with the win, improving their record to 11-10 as they battle for playoff positioning. Fifth-year outside hitter Alex Bader notched a total of 12 kills for the home side, while Tim Taylor followed with 10. The Dinos held a 10.5-7 advantage in blocks and out-dug their rivals by a 34-24 margin.
"We were pretty confident coming into the game but our block-defence kind of crumbled, there were balls we should have got and we weren't getting blocks," said third-year outside hitter Tim Taylor.
"Eventually we took advantage, got our momentum back and came back in the end, luckily. The team comes in clutch at important moments."
The action between the Dinos and Griffins continues at the Jack Simpson Gym on Saturday with first serve set for 1:30 p.m., live on CanadaWest.tv.