Griffins battle hard but lose late clutch points to fall 3-1 to Bisons

The Griffins battled the Manitoba Bisons tooth and nail, but were unable to get a result over the weekend, losing both matches (Trevor Hagan, Bison Sports)
The Griffins battled the Manitoba Bisons tooth and nail, but were unable to get a result over the weekend, losing both matches (Trevor Hagan, Bison Sports)

MacEwan Athletics and Manitoba Athletics

WINNIPEG – Losing clutch late points in the fourth set cost the Griffins in a 3-1 loss at the Manitoba Bisons on Sunday afternoon.

Winning a tough battle, the Bisons completed a weekend sweep of the visiting Griffins as both teams are now 2-2 in the Canada West women's volleyball standings.

"MacEwan played better today, their serving and receiving was better for sure so they were insistent a lot more and that was challenging for us," said Bisons head coach Ken Bentley. 

Manitoba's Cassie Bujan led the game with 23 digs, while MacEwan's Carly Weber and Lauren Holmes tied at 20 digs each.

"It was a good fight, I expected them to be better tonight and they were. I was happy we were prepared for that," said Bentley.

The fourth set mirrored much of the game, and each point was a fight. Nearing halfway, the Griffins rose to a two-point lead (12-14), but couldn't maintain it for long. Tied at 17, Manitoba took a substantial lead late in the set (23-19) and a kill from Jocelyn Koswin put the Bisons within set point. An out-of-bounds play by MacEwan cemented the home team win (25-20).

Ken Briggs, head coach of MacEwan, was proud of the Griffins for rising up to meet Manitoba's level of defensive play.

"We'd get rallies and then we'd miss a serve or make an error in the first set, and then you saw all night, no matter what, it was a battle," said Briggs.

MacEwan led in total kills at 57. Lauren Holmes ended the game with 15, while the Herd's Laura Findlay added 13 to Manitoba's 50.

"Statistically both nights we controlled the game," said Briggs. "If I would have had some of these statistics, just kill efficiency, last year, we win four or five more matches.

"We did everything right, but we'd go on a run and take a lead and then blow a serve or make a bad decision. It's just learning. It always seems to find the person that's in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"No excuses. We played well, just not good enough to beat them in this gym."

Despite a strong start by both teams early in the third set, Manitoba grabbed a three-point streak and clinched a lead (6-3). Near halfway (14-13), a turning point: a battle of a rally for Manitoba to remain in the lead was dominated by successful digs by each team and ended in a point for the Bisons.

Two back-to-back kills by Findlay extended the home team's lead, and a five-point streak, to 19-13. Another intense rally was controlled by blocks from Griffins' Haley Gilfillan and Kylie Schubert—and bumped the set to 22-18. An error from MacEwan put Manitoba within set point (24-19) and an out-of-bounds block from the Griffins netted Manitoba the win (25-20).

Manitoba tied the second set at seven and surged ahead from there. By half, the home team was four points ahead.

The visitors caught up late in the set, tying it at 19. The Herd called a timeout as MacEwan leapt past them (22-19). The Bisons' play turned frantic while the Griffins entered precise and calculated play. At 24-20, it was a fight for Manitoba to remain in the set. An out-of-bounds off a block led to the Griffins clinching set point, 25-20.

In the fourth set, MacEwan called an early timeout as Manitoba ran up the score with a point streak (7-1). Several out-of-bounds errors made by the home team allowed the Griffins to come within two points of taking the lead (15-13). MacEwan's energy picked up speed after the halfway mark, and they closed in on Manitoba's lead (23-22). But a service error by the visitors gave the home team the set point, 25-22.

For next weekend, Briggs said the Griffins need to bear down.

"We have to understand that every team is very very competitive and are very good athletes and each team is a bit of a different story," he said.

"They're fixable things," he added of errors that cost the Griffins at inopportune times over the weekend. "I'm not totally devastated over the weekend. They're a tough defensive team to play against. I thought we did OK. A split would have been nice."

MacEwan will next host the University of Saskatchewan Huskies on Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m., both games David Atkinson Gym). Manitoba rests, but will play next at UBC on Friday Nov. 9.