Resilient Griffins dominate in the middle and sweep WolfPack in weekend series opener

Hailey Cornelis passes the ball on Friday against TRU. The Griffins won in straight sets to improve to 5-4 on the season (Andrew Snucins photo).
Hailey Cornelis passes the ball on Friday against TRU. The Griffins won in straight sets to improve to 5-4 on the season (Andrew Snucins photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

KAMLOOPS, B.C. – Resiliency was the name of the game as the MacEwan Griffins rode out a match filled with equal parts error and brilliance to sweep the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack in straight sets on Friday night (25-23, 25-22, 25-23).

"We were very resilient tonight," said head coach Ken Briggs. "There were too many errors, but it was kind of equal. The rest of the game, we were in control of. We came out of the gate and our middles were fantastic and really set the tone."

McKenna Stevenson had a dominant game in the middle with a team-high 10 kills and 14.0 points, adding a match-high seven blocks. Haley Gilfillan added four kills, two service aces and five blocks.

"Seriously, she got us going," said Briggs of Stevenson. "Kylie (Schubert) set a really nice game and they couldn't stop her. They had to adjust their game to account for her.

"McKenna jumps out at you with 10 kills, but she also had blocks. Gilf was the same thing."

The Griffins had a huge lead in Set 1, up 18-11 and seemingly cruising to an easy win. But after a string of attacking errors gave TRU an 8-0 run, MacEwan just shook it off and won the race to 25. The last two points came off Stevenson's hands – a quick kill in the middle followed by a set-winning block.

"It was huge. That was the biggest moment of the game," said Briggs of the ability to weather a storm and come out unscathed on the other side. "It just showed we were OK.

"We were down in the last set 23-20 and Carly Weber came back and served the game out. We played great defence and found our attacks really well."

One needs only to look at the -.024 hitting efficiency of outside hitter Olga Savenchuk for proof.

"It was another weekend where I thought we did a good job on their really good player," said Briggs. "Number 12 had 10 kills, but she had more errors (11). We caused those errors. We blocked her … it was really good."

The teams traded mini-runs in the second set, but again it was MacEwan coming through in the clutch and claiming the late points, ending it on back-to-back kills by Weber.

TRU seemed like it was on its way to getting back into the match in the third set, up 23-20. But the Griffins closed with five-straight points – two of those on Weber service aces – to end the proceedings.

"What was good tonight was everyone had their moments," said Briggs.

"We passed really well. With us missing Zoe (Cronin) this weekend, Rachel (Jorvina) really stepped up and played well as a libero and had probably her best game in a couple of years."

Jorvina finished with a match-high 17 digs. Schubert, meanwhile, had a match-high 23 assists.

The Griffins improve to 5-4 with the victory. They'll meet the WolfPack (3-6) again on Saturday (7 p.m. MT, Canada West TV).