Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Newly minted as the U SPORTS women's volleyball No. 1 earlier in the week, the University of Calgary Dinos showed off clutch late set play to sweep the homestanding MacEwan Griffins in straight sets on Friday night.
Calgary won 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-20) by rallying twice from early set deficits, and taking complete control of all three sets post-20.
"They really step up and don't make mistakes past 16 and we did," lamented MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs. "That's why they are where they are, and we are where we are."
With the win, the Dinos improve to 16-3 in the Canada West standings, while the Griffins fall to 8-11.
After leading her team into their first action since achieving the No. 1-ranking on Tuesday, Calgary head coach Natalie Gurnsey said her team handled it well because it wasn't a point of emphasis.
"We really try to keep the focus on what we think our goals need to be in the group, what our focus is with the team," she said. "And we try to minimize that distraction because it can be really distracting, and it can put unnecessary pressure on us.
"We're constantly talking about what we can do to get better, what we can control and what we can execute on the weekend. But we were coming off a bye weekend, so we were excited to play and compete again."
Hannah Tanasichuk led the Dinos with 14 kills on .481 efficiency and was a difference-maker throughout the match, adding four digs and an ace. Kenzie Vaandering chipped in 11 kills, while libero Kennedy Snape was sharp with 13 digs.
"She's just been getting better and better every single weekend," Gurnsey said of Tanasichuk. "Our last match we played against U of A before the bye, she was two kills away from our school record.
"She's just getting better every time she steps on the court. It's really neat to see her grow in her confidence and her ability to play night after night. She's doing a great job for us."
MacEwan was led by outside hitter Hailey Cornelis, who had 10 kills on .269 efficiency, adding 10 digs. Middle Haley Gilfillan added nine kills and three blocks, while setter Kylie Schubert had a game-high 31 assists.
"I was so happy for our outsides," said Briggs of an area they've been working to shore up in recent weeks. "Our hitting percentages and efficiency (were great). I really like our efficiency (.278 in the match).
"Our best was when they were at their best," he noted. "Even that last set, how did they beat us with a hitting percentage lower than ours (.147 to .150)? But you can see, if it gets to net play where it's tight, height and strength and experience is going to win every time."
The difference in errors was the difference in the match as MacEwan missed 10 serves, most of them in the final set.
"We played really, really well with hitting and defence," said Briggs. "We had atrocious mental errors. We were on the net six times, one player three times. That's just not acceptable. Missing 10 serves (was costly) when it counts.
"I'm really happy with a lot of that play, but gosh, it was just the discipline part of the game really let us down," he continued. "I thought we held them to decent numbers, our outsides really had good scoring tonight and good ratio of kills versus errors. I'm just really disappointed because they let themselves down with the discipline part of the game."
The Dinos never led by much in the opening set as the Griffins played some of their top volleyball – committing just one hitting error – but Calgary didn't let them seize momentum, never once trailing. And when push came to shove, they grabbed most of the clutch points, ending it on Vaandering's kill.
MacEwan held court on an early advantage in Set 2 with some crafty shots like the dump from Schubert that put them up 7-5. But Calgary chipped away and jumped on some errors to lead at the technical timeout. But with the score tied at 19, it was all Dinos when it mattered. Vaandering again ended it off a blocking error by Carly Weber.
Set 3 followed a similar script with the Griffins taking an early lead. But this time they shot themselves in the foot with service errors and the Dinos eventually took control mid-set, cruising to 24-16 lead on a 5-1 run. MacEwan hung around a few more points because of the great defence from late-set sub Jordyn Thomas, but the match finally ended when Tanasichuk blasted it through the block.
Ultimately, the Dinos won because they never panicked, despite having to rally in two of three sets.
"We talked a lot about that," said Gurnsey. "Grant MacEwan, every time we've ever played them, they bomb serves at us and they play really scrappy defence.
"So, coming into the match, we talked about needing to stay really patient and just stay really composed no matter what they're bringing at us. Just to stay confident in what we can bring to the table. I was happy they were able to do that."
The teams will meet again on Saturday (5 p.m., David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV).