SASKATOON – Claire McLoughlin dumped the ball on a sneaky second touch and when it hit the Saskatchewan side of the floor, a wave of elation, relief and celebration washed over the MacEwan Griffins.
It took more than half a season, but their first win of the Canada West women's volleyball season is finally in the books – an epic 3-2 triumph over the Huskies (26-24, 24-26, 23-25, 30-28, 15-11).
"It's finally a reward for how well they have been playing," said MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs. "Now they know what that feels like. You've got a happy group here. It's a new feeling for everybody. I don't think anyone on this team has ever been in the scenario that we've been in.
"I'm the happiest I can be for them. They deserved this."
The win pushes the Griffins' record to 1-12, which is still well back of a playoff spot, but it's a start. And that's all they can ask for. Saskatchewan falls to 7-8.
Kinsella led the Griffins offensively, too, scoring 19 kills on a .250 hitting percentage and accounting for a game-high 23.5 points. Lauren Holmes had 12 kills on a .206 mark, while McLoughlin added 45 assists and Karly Edgar had 17 digs.
"We blocked very, very well and especially blocked stronger as the match went on," said Briggs. "We won the blocking battle 21-7. That's huge.
"Claire set the best game of her career as a Griffin," he continued. "Cassidy was great. I was really, really happy for her. She had 19 and scored really, really well.
"Both our middles blocked very well, but (Haley) really made a difference," he added. "Lauren and her really got the blocking going under pressure near the end. Those were really solid things. People that came into the game for serving and passing – Zoe (Cronin) and Rachel (Jorvina) – were great. Everybody did their job. Our bench was great. Our game plan was spot on."
Saskatchewan was led by Emily Koshinsky's 18 kills on a .268 percentage, while Carissa Noble had 16 from the middle on a sizzling .583 hitting mark. Alexandra Frank had 46 assists, while Shae Beaulieu led the way with 18 digs.
"It was a dandy match," said Briggs. "It was just that close. Both teams were doing a really nice job in certain aspects of the game.
"It was a great battle of middles. Their two middles were rock stars. Number 8 (Noble) got 16 kills as a middle and it was all in transition. We'd attack, they'd make a dig and boom. If they passed it well, she was putting it down our throats."
If there are any adjustments to be made for Saturday's rematch (6 p.m. CST, Canada West TV), it will be for the Griffins to discover how to put it away sooner. They won the first set and had a 20-10 lead in the second before wheels fell off and they almost lost the match.
"We're already trying to figure out what we can do to not get that close tomorrow, but it's going to be another battle," said Briggs. "It's fun. Volleyball's fun."