WVB: Strong middle play helps No. 4 Alberta top Manitoba 3-0

WVB: Strong middle play helps No. 4 Alberta top Manitoba 3-0

Mike Still, Bison Sports

WINNIPEG — Strong play in the middle from Vanessa Jarman helped the No. 4 Alberta Pandas (8-2) top the Manitoba Bisons (3-5) 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-12) on Saturday night at Investors Group Athletic Centre. 

Jarman had a team-high 11 kills and just one error, as well as four assisted blocks. Manitoba's best performer was left side Laura Findlay with ten kills. 

"[Alberta] was insistent all the time, we weren't," Bisonshead coach Ken Bentley said postgame.

"It's pretty easy for them to run middle when they're getting great passes and we're not. We had to play the whole match from the three-meter line. I don't care who we're playing, if we've got to set the ball from there the whole match, it's going to be hard for us."

Manitoba got out to an early 8-3 lead in the first set, forcing Alberta to take a timeout. Middle Allison Alcock had an impressive start with two service aces while the Pandas gave up a few free balls which cost them. 

The Pandas fought back, narrowing the deficit to 13-12 thanks to the hitting of Kory White, who had a team-leading four kills and two assisted blocks. But the Bisons found a rhythm, heading into the technical timeout up 16-12 on back-to-back points from middle Jocelyn Koswin and setter Kelsey Jordan, who also had five digs and a team-best .400 hitting percentage. 

Alberta once again demonstrated their push-back though. They took a 19-18 lead off of some critical errors from the Herd and eventually won the set 25-22. Jarman was strong at the service line, including an ace; she also had two kills and an assisted block. She had five kills and three assisted blocks through two. 

Manitoba had two errors early in the second set which contributed to a 6-1 deficit, forcing a timeout from the hosts. Alberta middle Jess Stroud was key as well, with a service ace and strong hitting at the net. 

The Bisons clawed back however, narrowing the gap to 11-9 and forcing a Pandas timeout. Middle Laura Hill was effective with two kills, while left side Josie Abbott and  Findlay both had service aces. 

The hosts took their first lead of the set at 13-12 thanks to some critical digs from libero Cassie Bujan, who had 11 in total through two, as well as strong hitting from Findlay. But the Pandas went on a big run themselves, winning the set 25-19 thanks in part to the jack of all trades performance from outside hitter Julia Zonneveld, who had 17 digs, three kills and three total blocks overall. 

Alberta erupted to a 5-0 lead and 16-6 advantage at the technical timeout of the third set, with four kills coming from Jarman. Findlay registered a few critical kills to keep Manitoba in it, however the Pandas well-rounded attack was too much, as White came alive with some big attacks to help seal a 25-12 win. 

Next up for Manitoba is a road trip to Calgary this weekend, while Alberta has a bye.