Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Despite 16 service errors, the hard-serving UBC Thunderbirds still managed to consistently put the MacEwan Griffins out of system, as they rolled to another straight-sets victory in Canada West men's volleyball action at the David Atkinson Gym.
Conference aces leader Coltyn Liu committed seven of those – including stepping over the line in the third set – but for head coach Mike Hawkins, you live with the misses when you have players who can fire rockets from the back line.
"You kind of live and die by the sword a little bit," said Hawkins, whose team still managed seven aces in Saturday's 25-21, 25-14, 25-16 victory – their 10th in a row. "For us, we work on serves a lot. It's a big part of what we do. We're OK with errors if it means that we're serving aggressive. We know with the amount we train and the quality of servers we have once the ball's in we're going to put the other side in a really compromised position.
"I would have loved to have served a little bit better tonight, but I think we put a lot of pressure on MacEwan."
To the Griffins' credit, they came out with a much more determined effort than the out-of-sync performance they showed in Friday's listless 3-0 loss, pushing the Thunderbirds early and were right there in the first set.
"They came out with a lot of energy and clearly showed they wanted to put up a fight," said Hawkins. "We challenged our guys to match their energy. I thought MacEwan was fantastic on defence throughout most of the match, but particularly in Set 1. That was the challenge on our side to be the better defensive team and I thought we answered that call defensively."
With the result, UBC improves to 11-3, while MacEwan drops to 2-12.
The Griffins were able to hang with the T-Birds for a while, but just couldn't sustain that top level. By the third set, they were bleeding points as UBC took a 16-7 lead into the technical timeout and wrapped up the match when MacEwan couldn't return a Nick Mickelberry kill.
"I've said it a million times, but in volleyball, we can't score early and go into a neutral zone trap," said MacEwan head coach Brad Poplawski. "You have to keep coming, keep coming. To win a match, you've got to score 75 points somehow. We were able to hang with them for a bit and then they did some things we unfortunately couldn't stop.
"We said going into the weekend we needed to serve them out of system, and they passed really, really well. We weren't able to take them out of system. I was happy with that first set and it was unfortunate we couldn't sustain it."
Liu and Michael Dowhaniuk had nine kills each to pace the Thunderbirds, while again UBC's depth came to the fore as 10 players recorded at least one kill.
"Tonight, was just our ability to be in system more often than not," said Hawkins. "I thought our serve-receive did a really good job. I thought Tyson Smith did an excellent job coming in in the libero position and was just commanding our back row, which allowed our setters to run really efficient offence."
MacEwan senior Max Vriend produced a match-high 10 kills on a .562 hitting percentage, while Jordan Peters added eight. Rookie Olamide Ajayi flashed some solid moments with his athleticism in adding five kills.
"It was good to see some of the good things that he did, and I hope he can focus on that and not the other stuff," said Poplawski of Ajayi. "Maybe we can figure out his passing, why wasn't good all of the time. It was just a really good learning experience for him."
MacEwan next hosts cross-town rival Alberta on Jan. 17-18, while UBC travels to Manitoba on the same dates.