By Paul Cartledge, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON – After a tight opening set, the No.5 University of Alberta Golden Bears rarely fell behind for the rest of the match en route to a straight-sets win (30-28, 25-16, 25-20) against the No.8 Thompson Rivers University WolfPack, Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Team kill leader Taryq Sani recorded another strong night with 16 kills along with one ace and three block assists. Third-year middle Jacob Deinum led Alberta with three aces and six block assists while third-year setter Max Elgert tallied 31 assists.
Senior outside hitter Tim Dobbert notched a team-high 11 kills for the visitors, third-year setter Anton Napolitano leading the team with three aces and 18 assists.
Fifteen tie scores permeated the first set, despite both teams having short four-point runs, the Bears and WolfPack battling back and forth while the top offensive threats duked it out as Dobbert scored seven kills to Sani's five.
Dobbert got his team ahead at 25-24 with a cross-court kill to the back corner before Sani replied with a tap across the net to find empty court and tie things back up. Dobbert got two more kills before the set ended but Deinum then answered with two kills as well as a block assist with senior left side Alex McMullin.
Fourth-year outside hitter Carter McIntyre put Alberta ahead with a kill off Napolitano and out to the side before Elgert claimed the first set for Alberta with an ace off fourth-year outside hitter Charlie Bringloe.
The Bears started the second set with four straight points, never giving up their lead in the frame, while Thompson Rivers struggled on offence, recording five attack errors, five gaffes from the service line, and four bad sets.
Three of those sets occurred during a late 10-3 run for Alberta, the Bears giving up each point on service errors of their own, but Sani finished the set for good with a kill off the block and out the far corner to give the home team a 2-0 set lead.
The two squads were back to a point-for-point affair to start the third set, but Alberta broke things open at 13-13 with a 9-2 run to threaten a quick end to the evening.
Down by seven, Thompson Rivers cut their deficit in half to try to stop the Bears, but Sani made the threat all too real with three consecutive kills for Canada West's top team, sending his final one off senior right side Tim Edge's arm and out to the side to get Alberta to double digit wins on the season.
The Golden Bears improve to 10-1 while the WolfPack falls to 7-2. The two teams will meet again on Saturday for game two of the weekend series, game time starting at approximately 6:30 p.m. MT.