By Paul Cartledge, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON – The No.3 University of Alberta Pandas continue to dominate their opposition, losing only one of their last 16 sets after taking a straight-sets decision (25-16, 25-15, 25-18) over the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack, Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Third-year outside hitter Kory White notched a match-high 17 kills and 19.0 points (also recording a solo block and two block assists) while sophomore outside hitter Julia Zonneveld cracked double digits with 10 kills. Senior setter Mariah Walsh added 38 assists.
Rookie outside hitter Olga Savenchuk tallied team-highs in kills (13) and digs (13) for the road team, third-year setter Abby Spratt putting up 26 assists in the loss.
The Pandas jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the opening set, Zonneveld leading the way with three kills, but the WolfPack, having won three of their last four matches, fought back to reduce the deficit to a single point at 15-14.
Unfortunately for the road team, Alberta responded with a 10-2 run to take the first set, White sending her fifth kill of the match down the line for the 1-0 set lead.
The WolfPack didn't give up though, an early 7-2 run staking them a 9-5 lead in the second set, fueled by three Savenchuk kills. Yet a combination of Panda service line success and Thompson Rivers attack errors led to a 13-2 run by the home team, erasing the deficit and then some; Walsh had two aces during the span, continuing to climb the team history ranks in career aces as she tied Jenny Cartmell (1996-2000) for eighth with 95 each.
Alberta was also big on defence in the set, earning five total blocks with fourth-year outside hitter Mary Pless and third-year middle Vanessa Jarman combining for the fourth with a momentous block at the net to make it 23-15 before Jarman and Walsh worked together two points later for the fifth to put the Pandas up 2-0 in the set score.
The final set was back to "offence-heavy" mode for the home team, besting their 40% attack percentage from the first set with 42% in the third, rattling off the same number of kills (17) but with fewer attacks (33 to 35).
The WolfPack kept pace early but fell behind after 4-4 and could never fully erase their deficit while White continued to put away her attacks, netting seven kills in the final set alone.
Her teammates finished off the set, however, Zonneveld sending a kill from the back row that Thompson Rivers couldn't quite return for set point before Jarman ended proceedings with a kill off the block and out of bounds for Alberta's fifth-straight win.
The Pandas improve to 9-2 while the WolfPack falls to 4-7. The two teams will meet again on Saturday for game two of the weekend series, game time starting at 5:00 p.m. MT.