By Paul Cartledge, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON – The No.4 University of Alberta Pandas made short work of the MacEwan University Griffins, sweeping their opponents from the opposite side of the city with their second consecutive straight-sets win (25-18, 25-16, 25-20), Saturday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Pandas head coach Laurie Eisler passed late great Golden Bears hockey and football head coach Clare Drake for the most overall games coached in University of Alberta history, now at 1,058 games in her 27-year career as bench boss with the volleyball program.
Third-year middle Vanessa Jarman netted a match-high nine kills while sophomore outside hitter Julia Zonneveld added eight kills, also recording team highs with two aces and 21 digs. Senior setter Mariah Walsh tallied 28 assists to move into fifth all-time in the Canada West record books in career conference assists (3,172 total).
Fourth-year middle McKenna Stevenson notched seven kills in the loss for the visitors, second-year setter Kylie Schubert putting up 14 assists.
Momentum swings peppered the opening set, the Pandas pulling ahead with an early 7-1 run, only for MacEwan to reply with a 7-2 run of their own to tie the score up at 9-9.
Alberta, one of the best blocking teams in the conference, then put together another 7-2 run on the strength of three blocks to get back ahead again, working their way to a 1-0 set lead that was helped by some late service errors by Schubert and rookie outside hitter Tess Pearman.
Former Canada West All-Rookie Team member Jarman broke open an early tight score in the second set, notching four of five straight kills by the Pandas as part of a six-point run, her team attacking at a match-high 34% in the set.
Alberta doubled up the Griffins by a 24-12 score before Pearman was able to partially recoup her previous error at the service line with a kill and two aces but the Ponoka, Alta. native then put another service faux-pas into the net for a 2-0 set lead for the home team.
MacEwan didn't give up in the final set, however, fighting back multiple times as the two squads tied 11 times on the scoreboard before five straight Panda points put Alberta up for good. The Griffins got back to within one at 21-20 but a Carly Weber serve into the net switched back the momentum, third-year outside hitter Erin Corbett succeeding at set point off the block to cap off Eisler's record-breaking night.
Alberta improves to 6-2 on the season while the Griffins fall to 4-4. The Pandas head out on the road next weekend to face the Manitoba Bisons while MacEwan takes the "bye" before playing the Thompson Rivers WolfPack in Kamloops, B.C. the following weekend.