Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Setting the tone with a strong start, the University of Calgary Dinos weathered a mid-match MacEwan adjustment and wrapped up a 3-1 victory on Saturday night that puts them in position to officially lock up a Canada West men's volleyball playoff spot as soon as their next outing.
The 25-14, 25-22, 21-25, 25-18 win over the Griffins pushes the Dinos to 10-8 in the standings, fifth-best in the conference. MacEwan, meanwhile, falls to 3-15 after their seventh-straight loss.
"It was big," said Calgary head coach Rod Durrant of sweeping the Griffins in a weekend series that also included a 3-0 win on Friday night. "We needed both to put ourselves in playoff contention and that should give us an opportunity to be in the playoffs."
For the Griffins, it wasn't just that they lost that had head coach Brad Poplawski disappointed. It was how a string of untimely errors early and late in the match extinguished any chance they had at victory.
"It's not just the loss, it's the way we played," he lamented. "We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Playing bits and pieces of a match isn't acceptable.
"I think by this point in the year, we should be more refined in a lot of areas of our game and we're not. As a coach, that's disappointing that we're not further ahead in certain areas."
Tim Taylor led the Dinos with 18 kills on .341 efficiency, while Parker Siroishka had 12 kills and seven digs. Setter Blain Cranston racked up a match-high 42 assists. Liam Laidlaw had seven kills and five blocks in the middle.
"We had a good balanced offence," said Durrant. "They did a good job at times taking away our middles and Tim did a good job hitting out of the back row for us."
MacEwan was led by Max Vriend, who had 17 kills on a .209 percentage, while Jordan Peters chipped in 12 kills and a match-high 14 digs. Jordan Krause had 10 kills, while Mark Alexander made six blocks to go along with four kills.
Calgary's start to the match and MacEwan's error-filled stumble through the early minutes combined for a lopsided 11-point victory for the visitors in the opening set. Matthew Hood's service ace mercifully ended the onslaught for the Griffins. The Dinos hit at a sizzling .591 efficiency in the opening set, compared to .087 for the Griffins, who also struggled at the service line, to top it off.
"We were awful to start," said Poplawski. "I'm surprised and frustrated how bad we were to start the match. I thought we had a good, productive day and then to come out that flat was disappointing."
While the Griffins upped their efficiency to .312 in the second set, they still couldn't slow down the .364 Dinos. Calgary busted open a 12-12 tie with an 8-3 mid-set run and never looked back once getting to 20. Tim Taylor recorded the decisive kill.
"You've got to start on time and I thought we did," said Durrant. "I thought we did a good job in the second set and then I thought they turned it around.
"They changed their lineup on us and moved Max to the left side and that really made a big difference for them. I thought it was a very balanced match, both sides."
The Griffins shifted their lineup around to get some more space for Vriend and it paid off with a third set victory. MacEwan went on a 5-0 run after the technical timeout as Krause held court from the service line. They withstood Calgary's pushback and wrapped up a win when Taylor's attack missed.
"We had to try something, so we made that switch," said Poplawski of moving Vriend to the left. "We were able to get Max in some good situations to kill the ball."
Unfortunately, for the Griffins, they were unable to seize the momentum gained from that set victory, spotting the Dinos a devastating 10-2 lead to open Set 4. Despite some game efforts to rally, they never could come completely back as Taylor ended it with a smash off the block.
"We did it to ourselves. It was 100 per cent in our control," said Poplawski. "If you can't pass, you can't play. We couldn't get the engine started because our passing let us down."
The Dinos will visit cross-town rival Mount Royal University on Feb. 8-9, while the Griffins host Trinity Western on the same dates.