Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – There were adjustments to the adjustments to the adjustments.
There were counter-strikes to the knockout punches.
When the dust finally settled on a match filled with some of the wildest momentum swings you'll see in the Canada West women's volleyball ranks, the MacEwan Griffins emerged with a 3-1 victory over the visiting Saskatchewan Huskies (25-16, 14-25, 25-11, 28-26) on Friday night.
MacEwan completely dominated Set 1, Saskatchewan was unconscious in winning Set 2, it was all Griffins in Set 3 and when the night finally featured a close set in No. 4, the home side rallied late and took the key clutch points to end a roller-coaster of an evening.
"It was a serving game," said MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs. "The serving put people in trouble. For us to have 11 aces and only three errors, that's when we're effective.
"He (Saskatchewan head coach Mark Dodds) made an adjustment in his lineup, which changed my serving targets and that changed things for that one set."
Dodds' team looked like they were on the mat in the opening set, but they dramatically turned things around by settling into the match and then taking over … for one set.
"We're on the road, we're in somebody else's gym. We came out a little bit nervous," he explained. "We kind of settled in near the end of that first set.
"The second set we came out comfortable, playing the game and enjoying it. Those nerves were gone.
"I think maybe we got a little bit too comfortable and the tide changes again. Then the nerves come back and in Canada West, every game is such an important match and there's so much pressure on it," he added. "It's a challenge for these young ladies to keep that composure and stay within their level the whole time.
"That's why from both sides you saw some highs and some real lows. Unfortunately, we had a few more lows than they did today. We'll be back at noon (Saturday) to try to right the ship."
MacEwan (3-2) will host Saskatchewan (2-1) in the rematch on Saturday (12 p.m., David Atkinson Gym).
On Friday, the Griffins were led by Janna Ogle with 15 kills and five blocks, Haley Gilfillan had a game-high four aces and five blocks, and McKenna Stevenson had a monster game in the middle with 10 kills, hit .471 and added three blocks. She put the exclamation point on the contest by slamming home the final two points in Set 4 on over bumps.
"I thought McKenna had a great game," said Briggs. "She had 10 kills as a middle. It just seemed she was around the ball all the time. (Haley Gilfillan) had her six blocks and Janna stepped it up. Janna scored when we really needed her to. That really helped."
The Huskies were led by Taylor Annula's 11 kills and 18 digs, while star outside hitter Emily Koshinsky was held to just nine kills on -.064 efficiency, succumbing to a Griffins defence that game-planned for her.
"That's part of the game plan. We need to slow her down," said Briggs. "We're not going to completely shut her down. I thought we did a really good job on both their outsides, which forced them … we didn't see a lot of middle from them on video, but they ran their middle a little bit more in this game."
That led to a noticeable performance in the middle from Brooke Listwin as she had seven kills, two aces and two blocks for the Huskies.
Saskatchewan appeared to be getting up off the mat again in Set 4, as they pushed the score to 24-21 and served on set point. They never did get that one point they needed, though, as MacEwan went on a stunning 4-0 run to gain a set point of their own before winning a see-saw battle 28-26.
"Those are definitely tough and extremely disappointing when we need one point to extend it to a fifth set and they start creeping back," said Dodds. "It's very frustrating. We talked about finishing sets. It's one of our goals to try to be our best after 20. Again, that's a pretty high-pressure situation and both teams were playing pretty well. They got the best of us today."
Added Briggs: "It was just get the next point because you can see what pressure does. They over-passed the last two balls. That's what you hope happens – it doesn't always. It was a good battle and I thought the people that needed to stepped up when they had to."