Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Resiliency and resolve shone through for the MacEwan Griffins as they snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over the visiting Thompson Rivers WolfPack on Saturday evening.
Without a win since Oct. 29 in Winnipeg – the first weekend of the season – the Griffins, who looked a step behind the WolfPack in their first meeting of the weekend on Friday, dug deep on Saturday to score a 20-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-20 triumph.
"It was really good for us," said fourth-year outside hitter Cassidy Kinsella, who had a game-high 20 kills for the Griffins. "I think it shows a lot of our character that we were able to show up tonight and compete with a team we kind of lost to pretty bad last night."
Added head coach Ken Briggs: "It's one of those games where finally everything came together. I'm really happy for them because they've really tried to stay positive throughout this and stay energized. It was fun to watch them gradually take control.
"If you can push No. 12 off the court, then you've done your job."
Indeed. A night after Canada West women's volleyball kills leader Iuliia Pakhomenko slammed 18 kills down on the Griffins in a 3-0 TRU win, she was surprisingly pulled out of the game late in the second set and never returned.
"I just think it was a necessary move at that time for the team just to change the feeling on the court," said TRU head coach Chad Grimm, insisting the reigning CIS player of the year isn't injured.
Pakhomenko had stunned the Griffins with eight kills on 10 attempts in the first set, as TRU looked like they were going to cruise to another victory.
But the Griffins played perhaps their best set of the season in the second, seizing control of the momentum and chasing the TRU star from the contest.
Using a string of precise passing and untouched kills off the left side by Kinsella, Kate Rozendaal and Lauren Holmes, the Griffins skated to a nine-point lead early in the set.
TRU, meanwhile, suffered through their worst bout of errors all weekend, including miscommunication and missed passes. Just as they began to get it together, Kinsella took control late following up a tip with a kill destroyed down the left line that spun off a defender and hit the back wall.
A double block in the middle wrapped up a 25-17 win for GMU in Set 2.
Really, as much as the Griffins lost Friday's game in the middle, they won it there on Saturday with McKenna Stevenson (nine kills and five blocks) and Carly Weber (eight kills) getting the better of their TRU counterparts.
"Both of them played so well," said MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs. "McKenna looked way more flashy and in the end Carly had one less kill than her. It wasn't just the kills, we blocked better today. Our timing was better.
"That was really good, our serve-receive was 100 per cent better. But having that middle attack just opens things up for everybody."
Kinsella was a force for the Griffins in the third set, mixing in a perfect array of powerful slammers and deft tips. The WolfPack had some success off the left side with Alina Sopizhuk (who finished with seven kills) as the score remained close late.
The teams traded errors in the 20s before Kinsella and Rozendaal kills earned set point. Stevenson blocked Rachel Windhorst to seal a 25-22 MacEwan win.
"I think we struggled with reception at times," said Grimm, whose WolfPack fall back to .500 on the campaign at 5-5.
"I think also you have to give credit to MacEwan. They played quite a bit better. Yesterday they didn't hit the ball that efficiently. Today they got some good mileage out of their middles. We had trouble on some assignments against them. That was the difference."
The teams traded runs in the fourth set with MacEwan going up 9-5 on one of Rozendaal's 12 kills and TRU blocking Holmes to tie the game at 16. But the Griffins just got rolling after 20 points, turning what has been a weakness for them into a strength Saturday. Weber and Rozendaal recorded kills before Kinsella finished off the WolfPack with two late heaters through the block for a 25-20 win.
"I came in with a game plan and it worked for me," she said. "From watching video last night, I knew I was going to try to play with their one defence and I was able to utilize that well. A lot of credit goes to my setter and team for passing. It made it really easy."
MacEwan next hosts UBC (5-3) next Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m., City Centre Campus), while TRU is now on break before visiting Calgary (7-1) on Jan. 5.