Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON — With server Mary Thomson in fine form, the Brandon Bobcats cruised to a straight-set victory over the MacEwan University Griffins in Canada West women's volleyball action on Friday night.
Thomson had a game-high 34 assists as she set a well-balanced Bobcats attack that often had little blocking to deal with as the Griffins had trouble reading the fourth-year star's placements.
"I still think she's the best setter in the league," said MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs after his team fell 25-23, 27-25, 25-21. "She does a very, very good job. I thought she set a good game and really kept us guessing. She picked on our weaknesses.
"You'll get a lot of one-on-ones doing that. At times we read it well and at times, I'm not going to lie, we looked bad."
The Griffins jumped out to an 11-5 lead in the first set and looked, for a while to be on their way to an easy win in the opener. But the Bobcats countered with a 9-1 run – an all too familiar story for the Griffins this season – and closed out the set on a Carmen Ross tip.
"They were very prepared. They did everything they needed to do to come out off the top," noted Bobcats head coach Lee Carter, who once had Briggs on his coaching staff when he was at the helm of the ACAC Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves in the early part of this millennium.
"We had to make a bit of an adjustment and after that, it was a pretty good match. They did what they needed to do and we had to change our game plan a little bit."
The Griffins switched setters midway through the second set, going with first-year Mackenzie Oshanek-Gladue in place of starter Claire McLoughlin. That kick-started their stagnant right side attack as Kate Rozendaal got going.
It seemed the momentum gained from the switch would get them home in the second set, but the Griffins, up 24-22, squandered two match points before falling 27-25 on a double-hit infraction.
"I think it was just our serving and our block defence," said Carter of the key comeback as his team owned the third set almost the entire way after that. "We were able to control the pass a little bit, so we were able to put up a good solid block and play defence around it.
"It was a matter of us focusing in a little bit and a young group over there seeing the score. That's the biggest downfall – to be able to play through it. They did everything they needed to give themselves a chance to win it, we just found a way to hold it off until we could chip our way back."
Nikala Majewski led the Bobcats with 12 kills, while both Courtney Roberts and Ross had 10 each.
The Griffins were led by Rozendaal and Cassidy Kinsella with nine kills each. MacKenna Stevenson had a strong game in the middle for the Griffins with seven kills on a .429 percentage.
"I thought our two middles did a good job," said Briggs. "I thought Mackenzie came in and set really well. I thought she really brought our right side alive. I thought Kate really scored well from there.
"I'm disappointed in our defence. Everything else, we gave ourselves a chance. This is a team that is going to make some mistakes and give us our opportunities, too.
"We're growing. We have a to learn how to change things in the middle of a game," he added.
"When you have two close games, we're this close. What do you do to make a change? We just didn't adjust well."
With the defeat, the Griffins fall to 3-12 on the campaign, while the Bobcats move to 5-10. Both teams will be back at it again on Saturday night (5 p.m., City Centre Campus gym).
Briggs, whose squad has now lost five matches in a row, feels it's just a matter of getting a winning taste – the difference between taking charge late in sets, as opposed to getting that deer-in-a-headlights look.
"That's the thing now. We need that taste of victory to know what that feels like," he said. "That's what we're trying to do. We're there. It's not like people come in and mop the ground with us. We're right there."