By Paul Cartledge, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON – Though the No.6 Mount Royal University Cougars fought back to force a fifth and final set, the No.3 University of Alberta Golden Bears emerged victorious (25-18, 25-20, 12-25, 19-25, 15-6) to extend their season-opening win streak to four games, Saturday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Third-year outside hitter Taryq Sani led Alberta with 16 kills, followed closely by sophomore left side Jackson Kennedy with 15 kills while senior left side Alex McMullin added 10. Third-year middle Jacob Deinum recorded a game-high four aces along with two solo blocks and four block assists while third-year setter Max Elgert notched 38 assists.
Fourth-year outside hitter Trent Mounter tallied a team-high 14 kills for the visitors, senior outside hitter Tyler Schmidt getting a dozen for his efforts alongside four block assists. Fifth-year setter Tanner Greves earned 45 assists.
Momentum swings peppered the opening set, but the Bears managed to stay ahead after 6-6 to work their way towards the 1-0 set lead, sophomore outside hitter João Pedro Freire assisting them by sending his serve into the net for set point.
Early attack errors by Mounter helped the Bears to a 5-1 lead to start the second set but he refocused his attack to help the Cougars tie the game up at 11-11. Unfortunately, Alberta responded with a 6-1 run, never relinquishing this lead before McMullin assisted on a block straight down to the Mount Royal front court and executing a cross-court kill to the far corner for the 2-0 set lead.
The nationally-ranked road team was undeterred, however, starting the third set with a 9-2 run and didn't look back, earning an incredible 91% side out percentage in the frame and only committing one attack error. Freire made up for his previous error by scoring the set-ending kill off McMullin, the Alberta defence unable to recover from the wild ricochet.
The fourth set became a war of attrition between the two squads, knotting the score 12 times before the Cougars pulled ahead with an 8-2 run at 17-17. Mounter bookended the run with kills, the second off the Alberta block and out to erase the set deficit and create a winner-take-all final set.
Unlike the previous night where the Bears clawed back from a 7-1 deficit in the final set to win the match, Alberta came out strong with an 8-2 run, managing to push the score further up to 12-3 on two consecutive Deinum aces.
After that, the Bears were happy to go point-for-point with Mount Royal, ending the match with Sani's cross-court kill into the open front court on the visitor's side.
Alberta improves to 4-0 on the season while the Cougars fall to 2-2. The Golden Bears head out on the road next weekend to face the Trinity Western Spartans while Mount Royal takes the "bye" before hosting the Brandon Bobcats the following weekend.