Griffins taking positives out of weekend split with Thunderbirds

Hailey Cornelis smashes the ball against UBC on Saturday night (Rich Lam / UBC Thunderbirds).
Hailey Cornelis smashes the ball against UBC on Saturday night (Rich Lam / UBC Thunderbirds).

MacEwan Athletics and UBC Athletics

VANCOUVER – Just a small break away from taking the UBC Thunderbirds to a fifth set for the second-straight night, the MacEwan Griffins settled for a weekend split after a 3-1 loss in Canada West women's volleyball action on Saturday.

The fourth set went to an extra point – 26-24 in favour of the home team.

"We're being very competitive with what I think is one of the best teams in Canada," said MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs. "I thought we had a good weekend and took some steps forward, which was important, especially since this is the first weekend of the second semester for us."

A night after besting the Thunderbirds 3-2, the Griffins lost 25-14, 12-25, 25-17, 26-24.

"Both teams were up and down," said Briggs. "How can one team win by 14 and then the next game we win by 12? It was up and down – lots of craziness.

"We lost 26-24 in the fourth there, otherwise we were going five again."

As a result, UBC moves back ahead of the Griffins into fourth in the standings at 9-7, but the 8-6 Griffins have two games in hand.

"We've got games in hand and we've got to just keep plugging away," said Briggs, whose team is attempting to lock up the first Canada West playoff berth in program history. "They are so big and physical, but boy we did a lot of really good things. We've got to be positive.

"The kids are upset that we lost, which (shows our progression). We're doing the right things."

Haley Gilfillan had another strong performance for MacEwan with team-highs in kills (eight), aces (three) and blocks (three). Tess Pearman also contributed eight kills with two aces and four digs, while Kylie Schubert totaled 26 assists and six digs. Hailey Cornelis continued her strong play from Friday with seven kills and six digs.

"Hailey had a great weekend and Gilf stepped up," said Briggs, noting Gilfillan and McKenna Stevenson continued to win the battle against UBC's taller middles. "They were both good. McKenna had great offence last night. Hailey was our best player of the weekend."

Olivia Furlan had four kills and seven digs to go along with 33 assists in leading UBC, while Kiera Van Ryk hit at a .444 clip for 20 kills, seven digs and four aces. Danae Shephard made an impact during her time at middle blocker for the T-Birds, finishing with three blocks and two kills with a service ace.

"Kiera Van Ryk played really well, not only in the start of the match but throughout," said UBC head coach Doug Reimer. "Some people will notice how hard she's hitting the ball, they should watch how well she passed the ball tonight.

"I thought (Olivia Furlan) did a good job setting, not just tonight but yesterday as well. Sometimes you have to go through a bit of adversity, and both of those players are feeling a bit of it. Olivia has a pretty bad chest cold so she's fighting through that and competing hard. I thought our libero combination of Laura Worsley, who's just getting back into play after a really bad knee injury a year ago, and Sam Patko, who had a long break over Christmas, did a nice job running the floor."

Brynn Pasin dropped a pair of aces in the first set to extend the early T-Bird lead to 7-2 as UBC settled in on their home floor. Van Ryk cranked back-to-back aces for a 13-7 advantage forcing a MacEwan timeout. Carly Weber earned a big solo block for the Griffins to narrow the deficit to five at 17-12, but Pasin's fourth ace gave UBC a 23-12 lead. Siobahn Finan's first kill propelled the T-Birds to a set point at 24-13 and Finan combined with Ciara Hanly on a block to take the opening set 25-14.

Pasin's serve continued to click in the second set as she earned her fifth ace to tie up at 3-3 before Pearman served two aces of her own to put the Griffins on top. The visiting team stepped up defensively and limited the T-Bird attack, jumping out to a comfortable 13-5 lead. UBC refocused after a timeout and fought back to cut the lead to 16-11 at the technical timeout, but the Griffins replied with an impressive scoring run for the 25-12 win.

Furlan got the 'Birds off on the right foot in the third set after an emphatic solo block and Van Ryk rattled off three straight kills to make it 5-2 UBC. The Canada West leading attacker got hot in the third set as her Thunderbirds led by as many as 12 points and staved off a late Griffins surge to take the third, 25-17.

Shephard and Tessa Davis joined forces for a block to take a 12-7 lead and Courtney Hillier maintained the five-point lead on a crafty tip at 16-11. Gilfillan stoned Van Ryk on a back row attempt to bring the Griffins within two at 21-19. Tied at 24-24, Kacey Jost smacked her first kill from the back row for a set point and UBC snagged their ninth win of the season as a MacEwan attack sailed long to close it out in four.

The MacEwan Griffins will be back in action next weekend as they host the Mount Royal University Cougars (7-9) on Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m., both games David Atkinson Gym).