Griffins can't overcome errors, Bobcats' will in 3-1 road defeat

McKenna Stevenson gets a quick-hitter off in the middle against Alberta earlier this season. On Saturday, she was the Griffins' best player with eight kills and 10 blocks (Chris Piggott photo).
McKenna Stevenson gets a quick-hitter off in the middle against Alberta earlier this season. On Saturday, she was the Griffins' best player with eight kills and 10 blocks (Chris Piggott photo).

MacEwan Athletics and Brandon Athletics

BRANDON – Despite a mid-match surge, the MacEwan Griffins couldn't stop the steam-rolling will of a team fighting for their playoff lives on Saturday.

The homestanding Bobcats started strong and showed off their resolve, wresting the momentum back in the third set to win 3-1 (25-16, 21-25, 25-17, 25-22) and move back to .500 on the Canada West women's volleyball season.

Their 10-10 record moves them into seventh place, a game ahead of the final playoff spot.

Playoffs aren't happening for the Griffins this season as they fall to 2-18, but they dearly wanted to play spoilers. They almost did in a 3-2 loss on Friday, but Saturday's error-filled effort didn't come close.

"We just made way too many errors," said Griffins head coach Ken Briggs. "The serve-receive game … we didn't win like I thought we did last night. That was the difference in the game.

"We'd get going and then we'd shoot ourselves in the foot. It wasn't a great match by either side, but they just have more to play for. It showed."

A tough serve game kept the Griffins on their heels for three of the four sets, and fifth-year captain Mary Thomson had an incredible performance as she winds her Bobcat volleyball career down.

Playing in her second last weekend at home as a Bobcat, the setter finished just one kill shy of a triple-double, a rare feat in volleyball as the Brandon-product put up nine kills, 37 assists, and 11 digs.

Thomson nearly capped the impressive performance on the fourth-last point as her dump attempt came up just short, bringing a collective groan from the Bobcats' bench. Regardless, Thomson's effort was noticed as she was selected player of the match.

"We handled her better yesterday and then she changed it up a little bit," said Briggs, who calls Thomson the best setter in Canada West.

"She just did a good job. I thought their libero (Caitlin Le) was fantastic. We've made a couple of liberos look pretty good the last little while."

The first set was all Bobcats as they kept the Griffins under pressure from the service line. Brandon mounted only two aces, but the serve game kept the Griffins out of sync, which resulted in MacEwan putting up five attack errors to go with just five kills.

Fifth-year captain Cassidy Kinsella was lights out Friday for MacEwan, but ice cold in the first set on Saturday registering zero kills on 11 swings.

MacEwan cleaned things up defensively in the second set, putting up 26 digs, en route to tying the match at 1-1.

The third and fourth sets saw Brandon get back to what worked for them all weekend, a tough serve and pass game as their pressure from the line kept MacEwan's serve receive on their heels, thus keeping their offence from running efficiently.

While Thomson's nine kills were a career-high, Le also had a night, registering a career-high and match-high 30 digs for the Bobcats.

Nikala Majewski and Michelle Egger led the Bobcat attack for the second consecutive night as they finished with 13 and 12 kills respectively.

Kinsella led the Griffins with 11 kills while Karly Edgar had a team-high 17 digs. But it was the play of middle McKenna Stevenson that made the biggest difference for MacEwan as she registered a career-best 10 blocks – tying the fifth-best mark in a Canada West game in school history. She added eight kills on .389 hitting percentage.

"McKenna was probably our best player," said Briggs. "She played really well and had a good kill efficiency, blocked well.

"We made some nice adjustments and did a good job on some things we worked on, but we just made too many mistakes."

The Griffins next head back out on the road, bound for Calgary to play a weekend series against the Dinos on Feb. 9-10.