MacEwan Athletics and Brandon Athletics
BRANDON – They travelled to Manitoba dressed as spoilers and nearly pulled it off.
The MacEwan Griffins women's volleyball team came within a few clutch points of putting a crimp in the host Brandon University Bobcats' playoff plans on Friday night.
After fighting back from two sets down, they pushed the Canada West match the distance, losing the fifth set when the 'Cats simply decided they wouldn't be denied. The final scoreline was 3-2 (25-20, 25-21, 17-25, 19-25, 15-9).
"It was a great match," said Griffins head coach Ken Briggs. "They're breathing a big sigh of relief."
Another moral victory in a season full of way too many of them?
"Here we go again," he sighed. "I'm saying the same things with the coach telling us how amazing we are. But we played well.
"I haven't been as pleased with a loss for a long time."
BU was trailing in the first set until Michelle Egger went back to serve and took the Bobcats on a 5-1 run to take control of the first set before they closed it out 25-20 on an emphatic kill from Nikala Majewski.
The Griffins started the second on a roll after Majewski had to come off the court due to a bloody nose. The 'Cats hung around thanks to strong play by rookie Nicole Ashauer in the place of Majewski. But Majewski came back on and put the Griffins under pressure from the serve line as Brandon took a commanding 2-0 lead.
The Griffins refused to go away however, battling back in the third hitting .364 as a team before putting up an identical stat line – 14 kills and two errors on 33 swings – in the fourth to force a fifth and deciding set.
"We hit .231, which is probably the best we've had in a long time," said Briggs. "They hit .174. We had 15 blocks, they had five. You can tell from the stats even if we lost the first two sets, we were in it.
"Then we took control of that third and fourth set. In the fifth, it was 8-7 at the turn and they did some really good things and we didn't respond."
The Bobcats ended the match on a 6-1 run, closing it out on one of Egger's match-high five service aces.
"That gym is a really good server's gym," said Briggs. "That ball bobs and weaves. She served her most aggressive at the end and it worked. She missed one key serve in the fourth set when we were rolling, otherwise she had five aces."
Egger's impressive rookie season continues as the Swiss import also put up 14 kills and six digs. Fellow first-year Caitlin Le had a match-high 18 digs for the Bobcats while Majewski finished with 18 kills and 10 digs while Rayvn Wiebe had 10 kills.
The win moves Brandon's record to 9-10 on the season and keeps the Bobcats in a playoff spot with five conference matches remaining.
MacEwan now sits at 2-17 after losing a five-set match for the seventh time this season. They've won just one of them. Flip those close losses into wins and this weekend might have been billed as a play-in series.
Instead, the Griffins are going to try to don their spoiler uniforms again in the Saturday rematch (4 p.m. MT, Canada West TV).
"We haven't put a good Saturday together for a while," said Briggs of the team's next hurdle to overcome. "Our game plan was excellent tonight. We did a good job against them. If we cut down a few more of our errors early we might be out of there in three or four sets. We just gave them a chance to hang around and that happened.
"Our goal now is let's put two days in a row and relax. There's no pressure on us. We're the spoilers and everybody's scared to play us, but we've got to make somebody suffer a little here."