Griffins suffer second-straight 3-0 defeat to cross-town rival Pandas

McKenna Stevenson led the Griffins with seven kills in a 3-0 loss to the Alberta Pandas on Saturday (Robert Antoniuk photo).
McKenna Stevenson led the Griffins with seven kills in a 3-0 loss to the Alberta Pandas on Saturday (Robert Antoniuk photo).

MacEwan Athletics and Alberta Athletics

EDMONTON – Optimistic they would be able to compete against the nationally-ranked University of Alberta Pandas after a 4-2 start, the MacEwan Griffins found out they have work to do.

After suffering a straight-sets defeat for a second-straight night to Alberta (25-18, 25-16, 25-20), the Griffins fall back to .500 in the Canada West women's volleyball standings.

"This was the litmus test to see where we're at and we have a lot of work to go," said MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs. "But in saying that, there's some really good things. Individually, we need to be better."

Third-year middle Vanessa Jarman netted a match-high nine kills for the Pandas, while sophomore outside hitter Julia Zonneveld added eight kills, also recording team highs with two aces and 21 digs. Senior setter Mariah Walsh tallied 28 assists to move into fifth all-time in the Canada West record books in career conference assists (3,172 total).

Fourth-year middle McKenna Stevenson notched seven kills in the loss for the visitors, while second-year setter Kylie Schubert putting up 14 assists.

"A couple people played well, but not as a group," said Briggs. "Janna (Ogle) and Kylie really picked it up in the defensive part, which was huge. McKenna put two back-to-back nights in the front row together, but other than that, it was slim pickings."

Momentum swings peppered the opening set, as the Pandas pulled ahead with an early 7-1 run, only for MacEwan to reply with a 7-2 run of their own to tie the score up at 9-9.

Alberta, one of the best blocking teams in the conference, then put together another 7-2 run on the strength of three blocks to get back ahead again, working their way to a 1-0 set lead that was helped by some late service errors by Schubert and rookie outside hitter Tess Pearman.

Former Canada West All-Rookie Team member Jarman broke open an early tight score in the second set, notching four of five straight kills by the Pandas as part of a six-point run, her team attacking at a match-high 34% in the set.

Alberta doubled up the Griffins by a 24-12 score before Pearman was able to partially recoup her previous error at the service line with a kill and two aces but the Ponoka, Alta. native then put another service faux-pas into the net for a 2-0 set lead for the home team.

MacEwan didn't give up in the final set, however, fighting back multiple times as the two squads tied 11 times on the scoreboard before five-straight Panda points put Alberta up for good. The Griffins got back to within one at 21-20 but a Carly Weber serve into the net switched back the momentum and third-year outside hitter Erin Corbett scored off the block to end it.

"We played better," said Briggs, comparing it to a 3-0 loss to the Pandas on Friday night. "We made two really key adjustments that worked, but they have more than that. So, our adjustment to their adjustment wasn't quick enough.

"We just couldn't score. Our outsides were negative everything."

It hurt that the Griffins were without veteran outside hitter Lauren Holmes, who is nursing an injury, and the Pandas took advantage.

"They're very athletic, they're good blockers," said Briggs. "Right now, with Lauren being hurt, we're thrusting other people into a role they shouldn't be in. So, they're going to struggle."

The Griffins now head into a bye week before travelling to play the Thompson Rivers WolfPack in Kamloops, B.C. on Nov. 23-24.