Griffins' second-set struggles lead to another 3-0 loss to Regina

Hailey Cornelis hits the ball during Friday's match in Regina (Arthur Images).
Hailey Cornelis hits the ball during Friday's match in Regina (Arthur Images).

MacEwan Athletics and Regina Athletics

REGINA – The Griffins showed some resiliency, hanging with the Regina Cougars for two sets in Canada West women's volleyball action on Saturday night.

The middle one, though, was the problem as their serve-receive game fell apart, leading to a 3-0 defeat for the second-straight night (25-23, 25-12, 25-23).

"I would say in the middle set our serve-receive wasn't very good, so we struggled off of that – just our execution," said Griffins assistant coach Nicole Ban. "When we're not passing, our execution to be able to score has really struggled."

During the third set, Regina's Taylor Ungar became Canada West's all-time digs leader. Leading all players with 19 digs, Ungar surpassed former Alberta libero Jessie Niles' career mark of 1317 digs that had stood as the conference record since she finished in 2016. Ungar now has 1323 digs with four Canada West matches remaining in what's been a stellar five-year career at the U of R.

The Cougars opened up Saturday's match with a narrow 25-23 win in a first set that featured four lead changes, clinching the win on the third attempt at set point thanks to a wide hit by MacEwan.

Regina then dominated the second set, hitting .400 as a team and rolling to a 25-12 win to take a commanding two-set lead in the match.

It looked like the Cougars would roll to another easy win in the third after getting extended serving runs from both Ashlee Sandiford and Emma Matheson and going up 10-1, but MacEwan was able to come all the way back. The Griffins went on a 14-5 run to tie it up before the set got to the technical timeout, but the visitors were never able to take the lead in the third. Just like the first set, the Cougars went up 24-21 and it took until the third set point until a Brooklyn Reynolds kill finally finished off the night.

"We served well tonight," said Ban. "We had 11 aces and five errors. To be over double on that is really good from the service line.

"We played really good defence in the sets that we were close on and we followed the blocking defensive game plan pretty well," she added. "It's just that execution off of our defence to be able to score those points when it mattered."

Haley Gilfillan led MacEwan (8-10) with six kills, while Hailey Cornelis had a team-leading 13 digs. The Griffins played most of the night without starting setter Kylie Schubert, who appeared to have been poked in the eye in the first set. Mackenzie Gladue took the reins of the MacEwan offence in Schubert's absence, ending up with 15 assists and six digs.

Regina's well-rounded offence saw five players get at least six kills, including Jessica Lerminiaux with a match-leading 10. Diana Lumbala added nine – including a pair of thunderous kills in the third set – while Ashlee Sandiford had eight and both Emma Matheson and Brooklyn Reynolds put down six. Sandiford added 14 kills, while Satomi Togawa dished out 36 assists and piled up 15 digs in the win.

"I'm very happy with back-to-back wins and we had good production from our middle attack tonight which is something we wanted to implement more of," Cougars head coach Melanie Sanford said.

MacEwan will now prepare to entertain the top two teams in the Canada West standings the next two weekends as they try to keep within striking distance of the playoff pack. The Griffins will host Calgary (15-3) next weekend and Trinity Western (16-2) on Feb. 8-9.

NOTES: Graduating players Sandiford, Leah Sywanyk, Togawa, Ungar, and MacEwan's Zoe Cronin were all honoured as part of Senior Night after the match.