By Paul Cartledge, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON – After getting swept last weekend, the No.4 University of Alberta Pandas got back to the win column with a straight-sets victory (25-15, 25-20, 25-18) over the MacEwan University Griffins, Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Canada West kill leader Kory White netted 13 to become the first player this season to hit the century mark, currently sitting at 107 after seven matches. The Edmonton native also recorded two aces, two solo blocks, and one block assist while sophomore outside hitter Julia Zonneveld tallied a dozen kills and a match-high 13 digs. Senior setter Mariah Walsh earned 34 assists.
Fourth-year middles McKenna Stevenson and Haley Gilfillan respectively put up nine and eight kills for the visitors, second-year setter Kylie Schubert adding 25 assists.
After a hesitant start by the two squads in the opening set, the Pandas exploded for an 11-2 run to put the first set out of reach for the Griffins, White ending the set by placing a kill in front of fourth-year outside hitter Hailey Cornelis in the back row.
MacEwan jumped out to a 5-2 lead to start the second set, extending the lead to four at 10-6 when Cornelis and Stevenson blocked a Zonneveld attempt, but the Calgary native replied with three kills in eight straight points by the Pandas, adding an ace in a five-point run shortly after to get her team up by a 19-12 score.
The visitors, coming in on a two-game win streak, managed to narrow the deficit to two but Zonneveld sent her fifth kill of the set cross court to the back corner before adding a sixth down the sideline to set up set point, third-year setter Mackenzie Oshanek-Gladue making a bad set to give Alberta a 2-0 set lead.
Though the Pandas didn't create as huge a point swing in the final set to secure victory, White and Zonneveld continued to execute frequently, adding four kills apiece to push the set lead to 17-10.
After a final push by the road team to avoid defeat and cut the lead to only four, a long Stevenson serve, an awkward Cornelis attack attempt that fell out of bounds, and an unfortunate Gifillan miss ended proceedings.
Alberta improves to 5-2 on the season while the Griffins fall to 4-3. The two teams will meet again on Saturday for game two of the weekend series, game time starting at 5:00 p.m. MT.