Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON — On paper, the similarities to Friday's match were striking.
Five sets, again, were needed to decide the Canada West women's volleyball match between the MacEwan University Griffins and the visiting Manitoba Bisons.
And, for the second-straight night, the Griffins emerged victorious, closing out a 3-2 (21-25, 25-22, 25-22, 18-25, 15-12) win to complete a weekend sweep.
On the court, though, the games couldn't have been more different.
While Friday's was an epic defensive battle, both teams struggled on Saturday, combining for 51 errors, 28 of those by MacEwan.
"Last night and this night were so far apart," said MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs. "If we limit half our errors, it's over in three.
"I just thought we got great performances from McKenna (Stevenson) in the middle two nights in a row," he said of how they overcame the mistakes. "I thought Hailey (Cornelis) came in and was awesome. That really made a difference."
The Griffins kicked off the match with a string of early errors – missed kills, a serve-receive mistake and a scooped ball – that allowed the Bisons to open with a 7-1 run. MacEwan never could make up the ground necessary and dropped the opening set.
The second set was even until the end when Stevenson took over, ending it with a quick hit kill in the middle and a running smash off the right side.
MacEwan took a 2-1 lead in the match by again opening up a late lead in Set #3, which ended in their favour when Manitoba's Courtney Kowk's kill attempt went into the net.
But the fourth set was almost all Bisons as they cruised to a 21-12 lead. They then survived a 5-0 run from MacEwan and claimed the set on a controversial final point where it appeared a Bisons double hit went undetected by officials.
The fifth set was very similar to Friday as MacEwan earned an early lead and had to stave off a furious late set comeback by Manitoba (this time, a 5-1 run that brought the Bisons within 12-10). But it ended 15-12 when Cassidy Kinsella tipped one over the block.
"It was a great game," said Manitoba head coach Jon Hykawy, whose club lost their 10th straight. "We were undermanned today – we lost a middle player last night to a knee injury (Sarah Klassen). But the other kids stepped up.
"Cassidy (Kinsella) had, I think close to 80 sets and got (a game-high 25 kills). I wish them all the best. They have a great team. Ken does a great job with this group.
"It was a tough weekend for us to lose both in five, but we never quit right to the end. I'm proud of this group. It's a young team and hopefully they'll be around for a few years to come."
While Manitoba is all but officially out of playoff contention after the losses dropped their record to 6-16, MacEwan (8-14) has pulled even with Brandon (8-14) and Mount Royal (8-12) for the final playoff spot, although the latter squad has two games in hand and owns the tiebreaker.
Whether or not this season ends in the playoffs, the young Griffins are gaining valuable minutes for the future.
"Two great wins, two five-setters," said Briggs. "And for me, it's just giving them the experience to be in those situations over and over again and see who responds the best. It was really neat to see a couple different people do it."
He's talking specifically of middle Stevenson, who had 11 kills, three aces and a game-high six blocks, and Cornelis, who started the match as a serving specialist before coming up with several big plays in a full-time fifth-set role.
"That's what you need once in a while, like Rachel (Jorvina) did last night, is someone to come in and make those plays that get everybody going again," said Briggs. "I thought we struggled from the outside to score and they did a nice job of adjusting to us. But realistically it was us shooting ourselves in the foot."
Besides 28 hitting errors, the Griffins piled up 14 serving errors, but got away with it in the win column.
"I don't know what it is," said Briggs. "It's the last weekend and we know we're going into a bye opportunity maybe. It's still that immaturity of a young team.
"At the end because I couldn't get them going emotionally we had to simplify things."
Tori Studler led the Bisons with 15 kills, while Darby Coughlin chipped in 12 and Kearley Abbott and Haille Bujan each had 11.
Both team have a bye next weekend. The Griffins will finish off the regular season at UBC-Okanagan (12-8) on Feb. 24-25, while the Bisons will visit Trinity Western (17-3) on the same weekend.