Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – The recipe for a victory can sometimes be so difficult.
Ask the MacEwan Griffins who suffered through a 12-game losing streak in the first semester of the Canada West women's volleyball season.
Other times, though, it's really so simple. Mix in half a cup of heavy serves, four tablespoons of superior blocking, 10 milliliters of iron-clad defence and several pinches of a varied attack and … voila!
The Griffins did all of the above in cooking up their first home win of the campaign on Friday, improving to 2-13 after a 3-0 straight-sets triumph over the visiting Mount Royal University Cougars (25-14, 25-21, 26-24).
"Really exciting," said middle Haley Gilfillan, who led the Griffins with 10 kills, a sizzling .588 hitting percentage and four blocks. "It feels like it's been a long time coming. We've had a lot of really close games and it felt nice to do it in three. Ken (Briggs, head coach) always says that's the hardest thing to do in volleyball, so that's a really nice thing.
"We finally realized today how well we can play when everything's a well-oiled machine."
It's the best the Griffins have played this season as they came out flying, dominating the opening set with five combined aces from Gilfillan, McKenna Stevenson and Cassidy Kinsella. Kinsella had four of her nine kills in the first set, which ended in MacEwan's favour when Jada Lea served into the net.
Truly a nightmare opener for the Cougars, who committed eight errors in it, struggling in serve-receive and at the net.
"All of the above. We weren't ready to play," said Cougars head coach Sandra Lamb. "We had people go down. Whatever the excuse we had, we just weren't good. We just weren't good tonight. They served us off the court. A well-deserved win for them."
The night only got cumulatively worse for MRU, who fell to 7-10 on the season after racking up 37 combined various errors in the contest.
"We've got to be better," said Lamb, whose team will try to salvage a split in the rematch on Saturday (5 p.m., Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV).
"It's about us. It's not about them. We just have to be way better tomorrow. Being able to execute our offence and obviously pass the ball – that's where it all starts. Overall, we just weren't good."
"That's as good as we've played defensively," said Briggs, whose team prepared hard all week for the Cougars' serving game, which is one of the best in Canada West.
"I thought we handled that well," he added. "I thought we won the serve/serve-receive battle. We passed well and we made some good decisions.
"They're very athletic and they're in the hunt. These are teams we need to play with."
Just as important as the win was how they closed out the match. The Griffins have had several late-set mental meltdowns this season that have cost them at least four or five wins. On Friday, they saw a 24-19 advantage evaporate on a 5-0 serving run by MRU's Chantel Park only to close it out when the Cougars made the late errors instead of them.
"We've been on the cusp for how long? It was nice," said Briggs. "I never sensed complete panic like we've had in the past. We really preached hard in that third set – let's not get ahead of ourselves. That's the letdown (set).
"I thought we were a little too relaxed at the beginning of that set, but I think that served them well. They weren't uptight and had the confidence they could do it."
Besides Gilfillan, Kinsella had nine kills, three blocks and three aces, while both Stevenson and Holmes also had three blocks. Claire McLoughlin set a solid game with a game-high 26 assists.
MRU was led by Alex Donaghy's nine kills and 15 digs, while Cassidy Kitchen had eight kills, two aces and 12 digs.