By Paul Cartledge, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON – After losing two straight sets in extra points, the No.5 University of Alberta Golden Bears came back to win in five (25-21, 26-28, 25-27, 25-12, 15-13) against the No.8 Thompson Rivers University WolfPack, Saturday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Four different Bears cracked double digits in kills, sophomore left side Jackson Kennedy leading the way with 16 (not to mention two solo blocks and two block assists) while third-year middle Jacob Deinum notched 13 along with four aces, two solo blocks, and four block assists. Senior left side Alex McMullin put up 11 kills and three aces while rookie left side Braedon Friesen rounded out the quartet with 10 kills and an impressive half-dozen aces. Third-year setter Max Elgert added 45 assists.
Senior outside hitter Tim Dobbert recorded 16 kills in the loss while fourth-year middle Kyle Behiels and third-year setter Anton Napolitano netted 10 apiece. Napolitano also contributed on the scoresheet with 40 assists, two aces, and four block assists.
Alberta's season-high total of 15 aces in a single match got started early in the opening set, McMullin scoring all three of his during a 7-0 run to put the home side up 10-3.
Thompson Rivers managed to get back to within one at 19-18, but Kennedy, who already registered five kills in the set to this point, fired four more in the Bears' next five points before senior libero Jared Schubert got the 1-0 set lead by putting a kill off senior right side Tim Edge, who couldn't quite get underneath the attempt.
The second set featured early 6-2 and 8-1 runs by Alberta to stake the Bears a 15-6 lead but short runs by the visitors chipped away at the deficit, eventually drawing even at 24-24.
After getting set-point advantage and failing the first two times, the WolfPack made good on their third attempt with a big Dobbert kill that found middle Alberta court followed by a Sam Taylor Parks ace that Friesen misdirected towards the officials' bench.
Friesen corrected for his error in the third set, breaking a 13-13 tie with three consecutive aces but the feisty Thompson Rivers squad fought back once more, regaining the lead on the scoreboard while Friesen also sent kills in their direction to tie things back up.
For the second-straight set, however, Dobbert gave his team set-point advantage, McMullin's attempt to draw the teams even at 26 failing as his attack down the line stayed on the outside to give the WolfPack a 2-1 set lead.
The deficit lit a fire underneath the home team, however, charging out of the set break with a 5-1 run that ballooned quickly to 22-10 while the Golden Bears attacked at a blistering 58.8% in the fourth set.
Some late service errors delayed the fifth set for a little bit longer, but after Kennedy received a Taylor Parks serve, Elgert returned the ball to the Edmonton native who put his 15th kill of the match inside the sideline to set up set five.
The final set was a point-for-point battle, neither team earning a two-point lead until Deinum drove his kill into the court for a 14-12 lead and, even though Friesen just missed catching the back line of the Thompson Rivers court on the next serve, Deinum finished things for good with a monstrous effort off Napolitano and out the back of the WolfPack end.
Alberta finishes the 2018 half of the regular season with an 11-1 conference record while Thompson Rivers falls to 7-3. The Golden Bears begin 2019 conference action at home against the Brandon Bobcats on January 11-12 while the WolfPack hosts the Mount Royal Cougars at home the same weekend.