Mike Still, Bison Sports
WINNIPEG — The No. 6 Alberta Golden Bears hit .362 as a team and topped the Manitoba Bisons 3-1 (25-16, 25-21, 17-25, 25-21) on Saturday night at Investors Group Athletic Centre.
Left side Alex McMullin led the way with 16 kills and a .448 hitting percentage, while left side Owen Schwartz led the Bisons with eight kills in an impressive effort with fourth-year Kevin Negus out.
"That's an [Alberta] team that with their experience, you can get frustrated against," Bisons head coach Garth Pischke said postgame.
"You just don't block a lot of balls against them, because they won't let you. They hit the ball high and into deep corners. They rarely come down to other team's levels by hitting the ball straight down. That's a credit to them, and they learned that over time."
The Golden Bears went up 16-12 at the technical timeout and gave up just four points afterwards, winning the first set 25-16 with a 61 per cent hitting percentage.
Outside hitter Tariq Sani and left side Jackson Kennedy combined for seven kills, with Sani hitting a perfect three-for-three. The Bisons were paced by left sides Dustin Spiring and Schwartz, who had six combined kills, with Schwartz going three-for-three as well.
McMullin started the second set with multiple big kills as the visitors started the second set up 4-0, forcing an early Bisons timeout.
Manitoba battled back, eventually tying the contest at 17 thanks to four kills from left/ride side Ben Carleton, as well as a big service ace from middle Brendan Warren.
The rest of the set was a see-saw affair, with Alberta getting some huge blocks down the stretch from outside hitter Carter McIntyre and McMullin to help seal the 25-21 win.
The third set went back-and-forth, with Manitoba leading 16-12 at the technical timeout. Left side Jon Laube had a critical assisted block as well as three big kills for the hosts, while middle Jacob Deinum continued his strong hitting percentage, going seven-for-nine through three for the Golden Bears.
The hosts took over in the back half of the set however, allowing just five points on route to a 25-17 win. Setter Dylan Sutherland was massive with a kill, a service ace and a solo block.
Alberta took an 8-4 lead early in the fourth set, forcing a Manitoba timeout.
McMullin — who had 11 kills through three — continued to wreak havoc with a few massive points, while Laube kept a couple pf long rallies going for Manitoba with some critical digs.
The Golden Bears continued to hold a four-point advantage at the technical timeout, with Sani crushing some attacks. Rookie Jeremy Kaminsky stepped up for Manitoba during the set with his first career point, while also contributing a solo and assisted block in the game.
The Bisons cut Alberta's lead down to as little as three, but couldn't complete the comeback as Alberta won the set 25-21 and the game 3-1 with a closing point from Kennedy.
With the win, the Golden Bears advanced to 9-1, while Manitoba fell to 3-5. Next up for the Bisons is a road trip to Calgary this weekend, while Alberta has a bye.