Connor Hood - Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON - Despite 22 attack errors and 14 service errors, the University of Alberta Pandas were able to narrowly sneak past the visiting Thompson Rivers WolfPack with a 3-1 win (25-15, 22-25, 25-22, 25-22), Sunday afternoon at Saville Community Sports Centre.
In what was an inconsistent and sloppy offensive performance from both teams, which saw 51 combined attack errors and 25 service errors, the Pandas were able to pull away late in the third and fourth set to earn the series sweep. Pandas outside hitter Kory White finished with a game-high 13 kills on 53 attempts, but also committed a match-high nine errors. Fifth-year setter Eryn Orysiuk turned in another strong performance against TRU, leading the match with 37 assists, while also adding 15 digs and four aces.
The WolfPack were led by fourth-year outside hitter Rachel Windhorst, who finished the afternoon with 12 kills, but also added nine errors of her own, to go along with a pair of service errors.
The series sweep pushes the Pandas back up to 7-5 this season, while the WolfPack slide down the Canada West standings to 5-7.
The Pandas, who were fresh off a convincing win over the WolfPack the previous day, carried over that momentum into the first set on Sunday. Alberta took advantage of a -6.7% attack from TRU in the first set, while adding nine kills of their own. Shauntelle Hogg and White lead with three each, as the Pandas cruised to a 25-15 set win.
The start of the second set, which the Pandas controlled, made it seem like the Pandas would sail to another straight sets win over the WolfPack. Alberta led by as many as six midway through the second (15-9), and seemed in complete control of the match. However, poor serve receive, coupled with untimely errors (eight in the second set), gave Thompson Rivers a spark. Down 22-20, the WolfPack would run off a five-point outburst to take the second set 25-22.
Neither team seemed to own the momentum in either the third or fourth sets, as the two teams traded kills and errors back-and-forth. The Pandas, however, were able to hang on in each the third and fourth sets, taking both by 25-22 scores. The WolfPack, who had numerous chances to level the match late fourth set, couldn't overcome their poor offensive attack, totalling just seven fourth-set kills to the Pandas 13.
Both teams will now have lengthy breaks before resuming Canada West action. The Pandas will return in 2018 with back-to-back road weekends (@ UBCO Jan 5/6; @ MRU Jan 12/13), before returning to the Saville Centre on January 19th for a series against Calgary. Thompson Rivers will be in the same situation, as they visit MRU (Jan 5/6), and Regina (Jan. 12/13) before returning to Kamloops for a set against Saskatchewan.