Mike Still, Bison Sports
WINNIPEG — The Regina Cougars were exceptional from the service line, recording ten aces in a 3-1 (25-11, 25-18, 23-25, 25-21) win against Manitoba on Saturday night at Investors Group Athletic Centre.
"Their serving put us in trouble from the get-go and they stayed real consistent with their serving, so that made it really hard on us," Bisons head coach Ken Bentley said postgame.
Outside hitter Ashlee Sandiford led the way with four and also high a game-high 17 kills for the visitors, who have now won ten in a row. Manitoba was paced by 12 kills from right side Kearley Abbott. The win boosted the Cougars to 16-8 while Manitoba fell to 11-11.
Regina continued their momentum from a 3-0 victory yesterday, cruising to a 25-11 first set win in which they never trailed. Fifth-year outside hitter Ashlee Sandiford was all over the court again for the Cougars with three kills and three service aces, while the visitors hit .419 as a team.
Another key factor was errors. Manitoba had seven while the Cougars had none. Right side Kearley Abbott had an admirable performance however, with two kills and four digs for Manitoba.
The Bisons took a one-point lead multiple times in the second set, however the Cougars continued to battle, taking a 16-12 lead at the technical timeout and, eventually, a 25-18 win. Libero Taylor Ungar was massive with seven digs on some big attacks from the Bisons.
Manitoba responded with three kills from Abbott and four digs from Bujan, but it wasn't enough to match a .323 hitting percentage from the visitors, who had four players with at least four kills.
The Cougars held a 16-14 lead at the technical timeout of the third set, but Manitoba refused to lay down and die. A spirited performance from fifth-years Cassie Bujan and Tori Studler — both playing in their final regular season home game — helped lead the charge as they combined for three kills and eight digs in a 25-23 win.
"Obviously we found a way back into the match and had some chances in the fourth to get to the fifth and it's anyone's game at that point," Bentley said.
"We fell short unfortunately, but I was pleased we stayed in it and kept fighting."
Regina hit just .060, but got two digs, two blocks and ten assists from setter Satomi Togawa, who was all over the court.
As was the story all night long, the visitors took the lead into the technical timeout of the fourth and held on for a 25-21 win.
The Bisons were able to claw to within two at 20-18 thanks to four kills from Abbott and two blocks from middle Allison Alcock, but it wasn't enough. Sandiford — with six kills — had an answer every time the hosts started to develop momentum.
Regina now awaits the results of the next week to see who they face in the first round, while the Bisons will travel to Trinity Western to do battle with the top-ranked Spartans.