Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Deflated after giving up a big lead in the first set, the MacEwan Griffins fell 3-0 to the visiting Brandon Bobcats in Canada West men's volleyball action on Saturday night.
Up 9-2 and in full control to start the opener, the Griffins gave up a 10-1 run to fall behind before fighting back to lead 24-23. But with the win on the line, Max Vriend's serve went into the net and Lee Iverson's smash went long before the Bobcats put it away.
Brandon gained momentum from that and cruised to a 26-24, 25-22, 25-19 victory to complete a weekend sweep of the Griffins.
"We were up 9-2 and to even let them back in was hugely deflating," said Griffins head coach Brad Poplawski. "To be frank, we just stopped playing.
"I think we're still pretty inconsistent in our approach to the game. I thought we got a little bit too excited at 9-2. Then when they started to chip away, I thought we got a little too down.
"We're a young team in a lot of respects, so you see those fluctuations and we give up big runs at times," he added.
Brandon executed better as a team than when Roy Ching carried them on his backs to a 3-1 win over the Griffins on Friday night.
"For the most part, yeah," agreed Bobcats head coach Grant Wilson. "I was a little concerned about our sluggish starts each set, but after that we kind of settled in.
"We're pretty resilient and stayed focused at the task at hand. We didn't get too concerned about how much we were down. In the end, I thought we executed pretty well."
In the second set, the Griffins suffered through several missed serves as they fell behind 23-18 when Mason Metcalf slammed the ball down off an overbump. But MacEwan fought back to within striking distance with a 4-1 run, with Jordan Peters' monster kill getting them to 24-22. But a mis-hit for the Griffins ended their rally.
"There were spurts of good things," said Poplawski. "We couldn't sustain it. When they needed a side out, they were able to get the one they needed.
"We had some opportunities and … we just didn't better the ball. If it wasn't a good dig, we didn't get a good set. If it wasn't a good set, we didn't make a smart swing.
"Some of our choices … I don't know if it's just inexperience or if we got scared and panicky. We showed some spurts of things, but it wasn't enough to be able to sustain the match."
The Griffins were in good shape in the third set, swinging shot for shot with the Bobcats as they took a 17-15 lead. But then the wheels completely fell off for the home side. Brandon ended on a 10-2 run to claim the match on the trot.
"Obviously that was the goal to come in here and pick up a couple of wins," said Wilson, whose team improves to 11-5, solidifying their playoff position in the standings. "We were fortunate to do that. Pops has got his team playing really well and we were fortunate to come out with two.
"That's what we needed as we look forward here. We've got a pretty tough schedule down the stretch and we've got to keep finding ways to be better every weekend. Hopefully we can build off of this weekend."
Ching again led the Bobcats in kills with 13 – a minor victory for the Griffins after he rained down 26 of them on Friday. Poplawski explained they had a shadow on the big Aussie all night.
"Tonight we made a few switches," he said. "We had one guy that was always on him.
"The nice thing is it was a first year who did a pretty good job," he added of the work done by Jordan Peters. "Even on a night when you 'limit' him, he's still pretty good.
"There were times (Jordan) did some good things and it was a great experience for a young guy, but we didn't have enough around that."
Besides his defensive work, Peters also led the Griffins in kills with 12.
Next action for MacEwan is Jan. 27-28 when they travel to Mount Royal University (8-5 before Saturday's late game at UBC). Brandon hosts Manitoba (15-1) on the same nights.