Jason Hills, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON — The No.5 ranked University of Alberta Pandas just couldn't put the Saskatchewan Huskies away, the Huskies pulling off a shocking upset over Alberta, winning a four-set battle (25-23, 25-21, 22-25, 25-23), Friday night at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Fourth-year outside hitter Taylor Annala had 16 kills and 13 digs to lead the Huskies and freshman middle Mandi Fraser chipped in with 13 kills.
Third-year outside hitter Kory White led the Pandas with 20 kills in the loss.
Alberta falls to 13-6 in the conference and have lost two straight, while Saskatchewan gets back in the Canada West playoff race with an 8-11 record after the win.
"It's a huge win for us," said Huskies head coach Mark Dodds. "The playoff race is really tight and we have to win games. We had a real scrappy battle, and we were able to get the W."
The Huskies took the opening two sets and completed a big rally in the second set after the Pandas jumped out to an 11-3 lead, fighting back to win the set. For most of the game, Saskatchewan took advantage of every small mistake that Alberta committed. It was costly for Alberta in that second set.
"That comeback in that second set, down 11-3 and to come back to win 25-21, that's a big confidence booster for us. It was a real gutsy win for us," said Dodds.
Down two sets, Alberta led from start to finish in the third set. They led big for most of the way, but Saskatchewan wasn't backing down.
The Pandas led 18-12 and looked in control, but had to hold on for the 25-22 win in the third set.
In the fourth set, Alberta took a 1-0 lead, yet couldn't regain it after that. Although they were down early and clawed their way back to tie it at 18-18, they weren't able to take the momentum away.
"It was frustrating," said Pandas head coach Laurie Eisler. "You have to give Saskatchewan credit. They did everything they needed to do to win, and we were fighting ourselves."
Eisler was disappointed with how the Pandas performed in the late stages of sets. They struggled under the pressure, while Saskatchewan looked unphased.
"We weren't in the groove to handle those situations and we didn't play well after 20 in three of those sets. It was a really tough night."
"They put a lot of pressure on us. They played free and aggressive and, offensively, they produced more, they blocked better, and they dug a lot of balls. They were a real tough opponent tonight.
The Pandas and Huskies will continue their two-game series on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT.