Butterflies derail Griffins in straight-sets defeat to cross-town rival Pandas

Carly Weber digs out a ball during a recent game at the David Atkinson Gym. The Griffins lost 3-0 to Alberta on Friday night (Chris Piggott photo).
Carly Weber digs out a ball during a recent game at the David Atkinson Gym. The Griffins lost 3-0 to Alberta on Friday night (Chris Piggott photo).

MacEwan Athletics and Alberta Athletics

EDMONTON – Butterflies, rather than hulk smashes were the downfall of the MacEwan Griffins women's volleyball team in a straight-sets defeat to cross-town rival Alberta on Friday night.

Nerves and fumbling completely derailed MacEwan's offence, resulting in a rather tidy night for the Pandas (25-15, 25-20, 25-18), who were competing on their home court at the Saville Centre.

"We didn't even show up," lamented Griffins head coach Ken Briggs. "We didn't compete at all tonight.

"We showed up nervous, didn't execute in the first two or three plays and that was it. It just snowballed from there.

"I was really disappointed with the way things went. I know we'll be better tomorrow, but I'm tired of walking into this gym and being just literally scared."

On paper, the match was up for grabs between two 4-2 teams that had both got some love from the U SPORTS national rankings earlier in the week – Alberta No. 4 and MacEwan an honourable mention at No. 12. But when the actual volleyball got played, it was a landslide.

"I just think everybody's looking for somebody else to pull them along and it didn't happen," said Briggs. "I'm just disappointed in our compete level; other than that, I can't say anything. That's a team that's going to keep giving you the ball until you mess up and we certainly obliged."

Canada West kill leader Kory White netted 13 for the Pandas to become the first player this season to hit the century mark, currently sitting at 107 after seven matches. The Edmonton native also recorded two aces, two solo blocks, and one block assist while sophomore outside hitter Julia Zonneveld tallied a dozen kills and a match-high 13 digs. Senior setter Mariah Walsh earned 34 assists.

MacEwan's fourth-year middles McKenna Stevenson and Haley Gilfillan, respectively, put up nine and eight kills for the visitors, while second-year setter Kylie Schubert had 25 assists.

After a hesitant start by the two squads in the opening set, the Pandas exploded for an 11-2 run to put the first set out of reach for the Griffins. White ended the set by placing a kill in front of fourth-year outside hitter Hailey Cornelis in the back row.

MacEwan jumped out to a 5-2 lead to start the second set, extending the lead to four at 10-6 when Cornelis and Stevenson blocked a Zonneveld attempt, but the Calgary native replied with three kills in eight straight points by the Pandas, adding an ace in a five-point run shortly after to get her team up by a 19-12 score. Alberta ended it off a bad set by Mackenzie Oshanek-Gladue.

Though the Pandas didn't create as huge a point swing in the final set to secure victory, White and Zonneveld continued to execute frequently, adding four kills apiece to push the lead to 17-10. After a final push by the road team to avoid defeat and cut the lead to only four, a long Stevenson serve, an awkward Cornelis attack attempt that fell out of bounds, and an unfortunate Gilfillan miss ended proceedings.

"We started making stuff up instead of sticking with the system," said Briggs. "You hear this in every sport, right? When people start getting panicky and under pressure, they start making stuff up instead of trusting the system and working through it. And we did a lot of that tonight."

Alberta improves to 5-2 on the season while the Griffins fall to 4-3. The two teams will meet again on Saturday in the rematch (5 p.m., Saville Centre).

For MacEwan, Saturday will be about getting the train back on the tracks. They're a better team than what they showed on Friday and it will be up to the players to rebound.

"We were looking for them to respond tonight and they couldn't do it in the middle of a match," said Briggs. "Now, they have to go home and do a little soul-searching and figure out what they need to do tomorrow."