Stymied by defensive Cougars, Griffins' offence goes cold in straight-sets defeat

MacEwan's Kylie Schubert waits for a ball delivered over by Regina's Jessica Lerminiaux on Saturday night (Eduardo Perez photo).
MacEwan's Kylie Schubert waits for a ball delivered over by Regina's Jessica Lerminiaux on Saturday night (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Taylor Ungar was everywhere the MacEwan Griffins tried to go on Saturday night.

It was as if they were seeing double, triple and even quadruple libero jerseys in the Regina back court.

A night after breaking her own Canada West women's volleyball record with 40 kills in a 3-2 Regina win, the Cougars' defensive specialist piled up 29 kills in just three sets, leading the visitors to a 3-0 win (25-22, 25-16, 25-17) and a weekend sweep.

"They played really, really well defensively – blocked us and then we got intimidated by their defence," said MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs. "We couldn't put the ball on the floor early and that was it.

"I didn't think we passed as well. Then you're always running, hitting balls from off the net and stuff like that."

Ungar led a strong Regina defensive effort as they piled up 67 total digs. Even when they found open looks, the Griffins couldn't get the ball on the floor.

"I think Taylor's put a lot of work into learning more about her position and just the intricacies of how to defend," said Regina head coach Melanie Sanford. "She just put a huge commitment to it. She decided that's what she wants to do and it's really showing in her play."

Regina was led offensively by Ashlee Sandiford, who logged a game-high 10 kills, adding 10 digs and three service aces. Satomi Togawa had 27 assists.

"I think the team responded really well to making a commitment to changing and making adjustments that we thought we would need to tonight," said Sanford. "I think we played really good defence. And we just followed the game plan and stayed steady – tried not to have too many ups and downs with our performance.

"Our goal was to come in and put pressure on them."

They definitely did, forcing MacEwan to play most of the match out of system. The Griffins were without starting setter Claire McLoughlin (illness) and their offence never could get into sync. MacEwan finished with a cringe-worthy stat-line of .000 in hitting percentage as five players averaged minuses on the night.

"We're really finding it hard for somebody to play well over time," said Briggs. "I thought Hailey (Cornelis) again – her stats don't show it – but she stayed steady out there, even when we flipped positions.

"But our best players today were our middles probably," he added. "Other than that, we had too many passengers today."

Griffins middle McKenna Stevenson had a .625 hitting percentage, but she only attempted eight kills. She added seven blocks. Haley Gilfillan had four kills and three blocks.

"We just couldn't get them the ball," said Briggs. "We only set them 21 times and that just shows you right away about our passing."

Cassidy Kinsella led the Griffins in kills as she often does, but she only managed six of them despite 42 attempts. No one else with volume was hot either as the Griffins went quietly into the cold night, falling down to a 2-16 record after the defeat.

Regina, meanwhile, improves to 11-9 after the sweep and is now in a really good spot as the playoff fight heads into its final few weekends.

"I think this is really important for us on a bunch of different levels," said Sanford. "I think it helps build the team's confidence. We just focus on every single match by itself, but our goal was to come in and win two matches and the team did that."

The Griffins next travel to Brandon for a pair of matches on Feb. 2-3, while Regina returns home to host UBC on the same nights.