Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Able to go on lengthy runs in each of the three sets, the MacEwan Griffins cruised to a dominant 3-0 victory over the University of Manitoba Bisons in Canada West women's volleyball action at the David Atkinson Gym on Friday.
The red-hot Griffins romped to their fifth-straight victory with a 25-11, 25-18, 25-22 result that pushed their record to 7-4 in the standings. Manitoba, meanwhile, is going in the opposite direction with their fifth-straight loss to fall to 2-9.
"I thought probably that might have been our most complete match of the year," said MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs. "Even if it was only three sets, I just thought we just played with confidence."
Lauren Holmes and Haley Gilfillan each had 12 kills for the Griffins, while setter Kylie Schubert had another strong outing with 33 assists and libero Rachel Jorvina darted all over the court to record a match-high 14 digs.
"I thought we set our block really well," said Briggs. "We did everything we prepared for. It's nice when you execute and that's what we did."
Light Uchechukwu led the Bisons with eight kills on a .375 hitting percentage, while Kelsey Jordan produced 21 assists and Jordan Hamm had 10 digs.
"They're a real good steady team," said Manitoba head coach Ken Bentley. "We got caught three or four times where we gave up five or six in a row and it hurt us.
"We've played some really good volleyball. We just haven't been as consistent as I would like. That's just a work in progress."
Rarely challenged in the opening set, MacEwan gained an early five-point advantage and closed on a 12-3 run, ending it on Holmes' blast from the left side off the block and out.
Manitoba came out much stronger in the second set, taking an early 6-2 lead behind a strong service run by Kearley Abbott. But once MacEwan recovered and closed the gap, it was curtains for the visitors. The Griffins went on a stunning 15-2 run to gain a 17-8 lead and closed it out with their opponents stuck at 18 when Gilfillan delivered a quick strike in the middle.
The Bisons put their best foot forward in Set 3, leading for good stretches of the affair, including holding an 18-14 lead. But Briggs called a timeout and the Griffins charged out of it on a 9-1 run to take over. Gilfillan ended it on MacEwan's second match point attempt with a right-side attack.
"Nothing inspirational," said Briggs of the pivotal timeout. "We just got into a good rotation. Plus, you saw we lost Gilf for a little bit. She had a contact issue. When we lost her, they scored about three or four in that switch. She came back on the court and got the very first kill in transition."
Briggs expected that battle from the Bisons, who are always known as a solid defensive team.
"They touched a ton of balls, but we expected that," he said. "We kept relentless pressure on them and I think eventually that's what's going to win."
Despite the loss, the third set is something Bentley thinks the Bisons can build off of heading into the rematch on Saturday (5 p.m., David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).
"I thought the third set was pretty good," he said. "We were ahead there in the late teens and they scored a few on us there. We battled back, just fell a few points short."