Paul Cartledge, Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON – In another important game for the conference standings, the No.8 University of Alberta Pandas recovered from an early deficit to take a four-set win (14-25, 25-18, 25-14, 25-17) and a weekend sweep over the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, Saturday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Netting her 300th kill of the season, sophomore right side Kory White had a game-high 15 kills while fourth-year middle Shauntelle Hogg almost matched her in points, tallying seven kills, two aces, four solo blocks, and four block assists. Senior setter Eryn Orysiuk added 36 assists.
Third-year outside hitter Taylor Annala recorded a team-high 11 kills, third-year middle Carissa Noble also breaking double digits with 10 as senior setter Mackenzie Pek notched 32 assists.
With the victory, the Pandas improve to 11-9 to remain in sixth in Canada West, and with four games remaining in their season, can still climb as high as fourth to host a series in the quarterfinal round that goes February 22-25. The loss drops Saskatchewan to 9-13, having only two games left on the final weekend of the regular season to claim a playoff spot, a tough challenge with two teams ahead of them, both with a pair of games in hand.
The two squads played fairly evenly to start the opening set, but down 7-8, the Huskies scored five straight points to reclaim the lead. The Pandas tried to erase the deficit, but attack errors got in the way before Saskatchewan dominated the end of the set with eight consecutive points, sophomore outside hitter Emily Koshinsky scoring each of the last three kills, including her final one off the block for the 1-0 set lead.
In tying the set score, Alberta ebbed and flowed in the second frame, point swings occurring throughout for both teams, deadlocking the scoreboard nine times (the most of any set), but Alberta having the final say by breaking a 17-17 score with an 8-1 run, seven of the points coming directly off kills or aces before fourth-year Huskie middle Georgia Hurry ended the set abruptly with a net violation.
The miscues unfortunately continued into the third set, the teams exchanging service errors before the Pandas blew open the set with a 14-3 run, yet nine of the 17 points came off errors on the court or from the service line. Despite the combined 39 points on the board, neither team recorded double digit kills in the set, the difficult set ending on a high note, however, when rookie outside hitter Julia Zonneveld sharply finessed a bullet shot through fourth-year outside hitter Regan Wiebe and sophomore libero Shae Beaulieu in the back row.
The Huskies now forced to apply a comeback of their own in set four to extend the match to a full five, they grabbed the first two leads of the set, but Alberta responded each time, then fuelling a 4-0 run with two straight solo blocks by Hogg to build up a lead they would never relinquish.
Saskatchewan did its best to erase it, getting as close as two, but a 6-1 run after the technical timeout spelled the end before Hogg ended the game on an ace that found middle court just inside the service line.
The Pandas head to Winnipeg next weekend to face off against the Wesmen before closing out the regular season back at home versus the Brandon Bobcats. The Huskies will take next weekend off before finishing on the road in Vancouver, squaring off against the UBC Thunderbirds.