Pandas win 19th as Casault nears Canada West record

Pandas win 19th as Casault nears Canada West record

Paul Cartledge - Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics

EDMONTON – Senior outside hitter Meg Casault recorded a match-high 12 kills to put her within one of the Canada West all-time career kill record, leading the No.1 University of Alberta Pandas to a third consecutive straight-sets win (25-15, 25-11, 25-22) over the UBC Okanagan Heat, Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.

The Edmonton native now has 1,253 career kills in conference play, needing only two more to break the record of Tawana McLeod (née Wardlaw), who earned a total of 1,254 when she played for Alberta from 2000-06.

Senior outside hitter Karly Janssen added seven kills, two aces, and three block assists while fourth-year setter Mariah Walsh netted match-highs with 26 assists and 11 digs.

Senior outside hitter Kaitlynn Given led a struggling UBC Okanagan squad with five kills and two aces, fourth-year middle Erin Drew also spinning five kills while senior setter Emily Oxland added 10 assists.

Casault looked poised to break the record on Friday night, spinning two kills on Alberta's first four points but the Edmonton native then gave two points to UBC Okanagan on errors. Fortunately for her, she wasn't the only one struggling in the first set, the two squads combining for only 16 kills and a concerning 15 attack errors while Alberta's defence made the difference with four total blocks and 15 digs.

Rookie middle Vanessa Jarman soloed or assisted on three straight blocks for the Pandas to get the home team up to 21-12, senior outside hitter Kacey Otto earning the 1-0 set lead for Alberta with a kill off the block.

Coming into the game as the Canada West career leader in aces, the Calgary native earned three more in a momentous 10-0 run midway through the second set to put Alberta up by a 21-8 score. 

After the Panda bench contributed a couple of kills, Otto and Jarman combined on a set-ending block, Alberta strongly in command as they looked for their 19th-straight win.

The Heat didn't make it easy, however, keeping pace with the top team in the country as the two squads tied the scoreboard 15 different times before Janssen started a 6-1 run at 18-18.

All the while, Casault slowly added to her kill total, chipping in during the final run but a late block by UBC Okanagan's Given and Aidan Lea prevented her from tying the record while also giving the Heat one final chance as they brought the score to 23-22.

Unfortunately for the visitors, third-year outside hitter Siobhan Fitzpatrick then sailed a kill through the block and out before sending a cross-court kill just beyond the far corner, ending their comeback and keeping Alberta's set-winning streak alive.

Casault will attempt to break the kill record on Saturday night, the 12-7 Heat and 19-0 Pandas finishing the weekend series at 6:30 p.m. MT.