Griffins hit top stride only to be derailed by late second set lapse in 3-1 loss to Dinos

Griffins rookie Ryan Zachary attempts a kills in the face of a Dinos double block on Saturday night (David Moll photo).
Griffins rookie Ryan Zachary attempts a kills in the face of a Dinos double block on Saturday night (David Moll photo).

MacEwan Athletics and Dinos Athletics

CALGARY – They threw in some new looks, both in personnel and the playbook, and got off to a terrific start, but a familiar Achilles' Heel cost the MacEwan Griffins men's volleyball team in a 3-1 defeat (20-25, 25-23, 25-16, 25-19) to the homestanding Calgary Dinos on Saturday.

Those elusive clutch points.

After playing some of their finest volleyball of the season early in the match, taking a 1-0 lead behind strong serving and blocking in the first set, the Griffins were on the verge of taking a 2-0 stranglehold when the wheels inexplicably fell off. Up 23-20, they conceded five-straight points to lose.

"Today really hurt," said MacEwan head coach Brad Poplawski. "I thought our guys … if they could have taken care of business that second set we're up 2-0. That one hurt.

"There's been games this year where we haven't maybe deserved a better outcome – our record is deserved because we've been up and down – but I thought today if we could have found a way to close it out, the guys worked hard enough that they maybe could have deserved a better fate. I felt bad for the guys. They did a lot of stuff we talked about on video and they really battled.

"We gave ourselves another opportunity, but it's another painful lesson in not closing it out tonight."

Max Vriend led the Griffins with 17 kills as Poplawski moved him from middle to right side in wake of an injury to Shane Kerrison. They've been working behind the scenes with the talented third-year on playing right side.

"We've worked with him a little bit, but to be fair we haven't given him enough training on the right," said Poplawski. "I thought he did a good job. He even identified some things after the game that he knows he can do better.

"I was very impressed because he hasn't gotten as many reps in that position as in the middle."

Jordan Peters had another strong outing; a night after leading the Griffins in kills, he was second this time with 15. Rookie setter Caleb Weiss had 37 assists.

"We had a great start," said Poplawski. "To be honest, it was probably some of the best volleyball we've played all year in the first two sets. The first set we hit 48 per cent as a team and sided out 76 per cent. The second set we hit 54 as a team and sided out 66 per cent, so our numbers were excellent.

"We passed the ball really well and I thought Caleb ran a very varied offence."

If they can get those momentary lapses at key times ironed out, the young Griffins squad could push for a Canada West playoff spot next season. As it stands, the 2-20 squad will miss the post-season dance for a fourth-straight season.

Calgary (12-10) clinched a playoff spot during the weekend sweep.

On Saturday, the Dinos played in front of a crowd filled with friends and family as they recognized their senior players Brett Bolin, Alex Bader, and Calvin Siebert after snapping their six-match losing skid in Friday afternoon's series opener.

"Yesterday was a real confidence booster for the guys so we tried come in as confident as we could," fourth-year outside hitter Regan Fathers told Dinos Communications.

Fathers led the Dinos with 18 kills, while Tim Taylor chipped in 15 and both Bader and Bolin had 11. Blain Cranston notched 49 assists.

Next week, Dinos will be hosting their cross-town rival Mount Royal University on Thursday, Feb. 15 before wrapping up their season Saturday night at MRU.

MacEwan will welcome the University of Winnipeg Wesmen Friday (7:30 p.m.) and Saturday (6:30 p.m., both games Atkinson Gym). Saturday's contest will be MacEwan's Senior Night celebration.