Mike Still, Bison Sports
WINNIPEG — Kory White, Vanessa Jarman and Julia Zonneveld combined for 44 kills on Friday night at Investors Group Athletic Centre, as the No. 4 Alberta Pandas (7-2) topped the Manitoba Bisons (3-4) in a highly competitive four sets (25-17, 19-25, 26-24, 25-17). Left side Laura Findlay led Manitoba with 13 kills in the loss.
Alberta took a 16-10 lead into the technical timeout of the first set, with fifth-year middle Jess Stroud providing some balance with two service aces, a block and a kill.
Manitoba struggled with their serve-receive but got strong play from left sides Findlay and Josie Abbott, who combined for nine kills, with Findlay hitting at .429 percent.
"Laura, some of her play today was some of the best I've seen from her," Bisons head coach Ken Bentley said postgame. "She's really becoming, I think, one of the premier players in this conference."
The combination of outside hitters Zonneveld (four kills) and White (seven kills, no errors) was too much however, as the Pandas won the first set 25-17 and didn't trail at any point.
The hosts got out to an 11-5 lead in the second set, forcing Alberta to take two quick timeouts. Middle Grace van der Meer had a few big plays, including two blocks and a kill.
The Pandas cut Manitoba's lead down to as little as four on two separate occasions, including a score of 23-19 with three combined blocks for Jarman and outside hitter Mary Pless, but couldn't complete the comeback, falling 25-19.
Abbott was huge down the stretch with three kills, including the set-clincher. Setter Kelsey Jordan also had six critical digs for the hosts.
Manitoba opened up an 11-9 lead in the third set, winning some extended rallies, including a tremendous diving dig from Abbott, who extended just about halfway across the court to contribute to a key point for her squad.
Alberta battled back though, taking a 16-12 lead into the technical timeout. Setter Mariah Walsh and White played key roles.
Manitoba displayed their resiliency down the stretch, rallying to tie the game at 24 with some key kills from Abbott and two assisted blocks from van der Meer, but couldn't complete the comeback as Alberta took the third 26-24. White and Zonneveld were dangerous once again, with ten combined kills.
The fourth set was another exciting see-saw battle, with Alberta taking a 16-14 lead into the technical timeout. The visitors took control in the back half of the set though, winning 25-17 thanks in part to Jarman, who had three big kills and a critical game-winning assisted block to end the contest.
"We had some makeable plays and we just didn't make them and it cost us," Bentley said postgame.
"So really that's what it came down to. It was only two points [at the technical timeout], so it's not like it's insurmountable, but they kind of pressed on and we got a bit soft after that last timeout."
Both teams are back at it tomorrow at 5 p.m. looking to end the weekend strong.