Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Blocking and great defence were the difference as MacEwan swept Winnipeg in straight sets to kick off the final weekend of Canada West women's volleyball action in the first semester on Friday night.
The Griffins racked up 12.5 total team blocks – many of the momentum-sapping variety as they fought off the Wesmen's in-game adjustments to post a 25-20, 25-23, 25-22 victory at the David Atkinson Gym.
"We blocked because we felt we were comfortable knowing what was coming at us and how to block certain hitters," said MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs, whose team moves to 6-5 after the victory.
"I think we're still a little tentative offensively, but I thought we passed excellent, so we always had opportunities," he added. "We're working through it. I can't fault them. They took control."
Winnipeg had their share of blocks, too, posting seven total, but they were ultimately undone by untimely hitting and serving errors. The Wesmen fall to 3-8 on the campaign after hitting just .019 per cent combined, while failing to capitalize on seven MacEwan serving errors by posting seven of their own.
"I thought our effort was pretty good," said Wesmen head coach Diane Scott. "We tried to do some different things tonight that were working for us, but at the end of the day too many unforced errors in some key situations.
"But we battled and they're a very good team," she continued. "Their middle offence is very good. It's very dynamic and quick. We knew that coming in. That was their bread and butter, but they have a very good team. They did a good job defensively as well. Their setter runs a good show."
MacEwan dominated in the middle again as McKenna Stevenson added to her team-leading kills total with eight, adding five blocks, while fellow middle Haley Gilfillan had seven kills and a game-high seven blocks. Outside Hailey Cornelis added eight kills and an ace, while setter Kylie Schubert racked up 27 assists.
Winnipeg was led by Emma Parker, who had a game-high 10 kills on a .133 hitting percentage – the best mark on the team. Rylie Dickson had 25 assists and a team-high four blocks, while Madison Fyvie led the stats table in digs with 12.
"There were lots of positives," said Scott. "We knew what we were up against coming in against that middle offence. I thought we did a pretty good job overall, but we had too many serve errors and too many hitting errors at key times."
Without starter Janna Ogle due to injury and with Lauren Holmes unable to play more than back row spot duty due to her own ailment, MacEwan's lineup was a work in progress, but some new faces found a way to contribute.
"Tess (Pearman) had a good game for the first time playing a full match," said Briggs, also noting Carly Weber's solid contributions, particularly on the defensive side of the net and serving line. "Gilf played through the back row, which isn't normal, and she handled herself really well."
After a slow start to the first set, the Griffins settled in and quickly seized control, cruising into the technical timeout up 16-9 on the backs of great serving and blocking. The Wesmen fed them some of their own medicine to get back into it (20-17), but they were unable to overcome a string of errors. On MacEwan's third set point attempt, Cornelis' stabbing free ball off a great second touch by Zoe Cronin found the floor.
Set 2 was close throughout as the Wesmen's adjustments seemed to be working. They managed to shut down MacEwan's vaunted middle attack a few times and built a 22-20 lead. But Cornelis kicked off a string of diabolical serving that put them on their heels and MacEwan closed with a 5-1 run, punctuated by Weber blocking Kalena Schulz to end it.
The Wesmen had their moments in the third set, going toe-to-toe with the Griffins and leading 16-15 at the technical timeout, but the clutch points belonged to the home team. Stevenson ended the match with a quick kill in the middle that blistered to the floor untouched.
"I thought in this third set, after losing that close second one, we could have just folded tents," said Scott. "But we didn't. We were down, and we came back and made it a game."
The teams will meet again on Saturday night in the rematch (5 p.m. MT, Canada West TV).
"It's a fabulous (start) to the weekend and now we've got to follow it up tomorrow," said Briggs. "We don't need to be spectacular, just steady and that's what our job was tonight."