Otto breaks team record while Pandas keep rolling

Otto breaks team record while Pandas keep rolling

Paul Cartledge - Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics

EDMONTON – After a close first set, the No.1 University of Alberta Pandas forged ahead and remained undefeated, taking a straight-sets victory (28-26, 25-13, 25-15) over the University of Winnipeg Wesmen to improve to 7-0, Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.

Team kill leader Meg Casault spun a game-high 15 kills to go with seven digs while senior outside hitter Karly Janssen and third-year middle Shauny Hogg had eight kills apiece. Fourth-year setter Mariah Walsh netted 34 assists and senior outside hitter Kacey Otto became the team leader in career conference aces with 134, besting Jaki Ellis (playing from 2008 to 2013 and former holder of the Canada West all-time record), who finished with 133.

Left sides Alex Rose and Danika Picklyk led the Winnipeg offence with seven and six kills, respectively, sophomore setter Rylie Dickson earning 22 assists.

After an early 5-2 lead by the home team, the two squads rarely separated by more than two points in the opening set, firing off attack after attack as an offensive Casault had a personal war with Rose, the two leading their teams with six and five kills, respectively. Rose may have made the opening salvo to get the set started but Casault finished things off with four of Alberta's last five kills, including the penultimate point before Walsh and sophomore middle Jessica Hoskins blocked a Picklyk attack to give Alberta the 1-0 set lead.

One of the conference's and the country's top kill leaders continued her talents to start the middle set, Casault helping the Pandas to a 5-1 set lead with a trio of kills and misfiring only once in seven attempts in the entire set.

An 8-2 run by Alberta, followed by a 6-1 run shortly after, quickly put the set out of reach for a struggling Winnipeg team, still searching for their first win of the season.

The Wesmen tried to keep pace in the final set, but the Pandas spread out the offence, as six different players recorded kills to get the home team to 13-6 before Otto's record-breaking ace went straight down the center and off Winnipeg libero Madison Fyvie.

Three consecutive points by the road team threatened to tarnish the historic moment, but the Pandas got back in control and regained their considerable lead before, perhaps ironically, the game ended on a serve, Picklyk sending one beyond the service line to ensure the Alberta victory.

The 7-0 Pandas and 0-7 Wesmen will play the second game of the weekend series on Saturday, game time at 5:00 PM MT.