Jason Hills, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON — The No.7 University of Alberta Pandas and University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat have had some classic battles over the years, but tonight, it was a battle of experience versus inexperience, and Alberta dominated with a 3-0 victory (25-15, 25-9, 25-20), Friday at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Alberta spread their potent attack around as third-year outside hitter Kory White led the Pandas with 10 kills, while third-year outside hitter Erin Corbett had seven kills and four digs. Sophomore outside hitter Julia Zonneveld chipped in with six kills and eight digs in the win.
Sophomore outside hitter Sydney Grills led UBC Okanagan with seven kills in the loss. Alberta improves to 15-6 in the Canada West conference, while the Heat lost their 11th-straight contest and drop to 2-19.
"We've had some matches where we've had to rely too much on Kory, so it's important to make sure we have others getting involved in the offence and I thought Mariah (Walsh) did a great job spreading the ball around," said Pandas head coach Laurie Eisler.
"There were definitely moments where she went to her trusted #11 (White) on the back side, but overall it was a really strong offensive game from Mariah."
The Pandas know they've clinched a berth in the 2019 U SPORTS national championship as hosts next month, but with the Canada West season wrapping up next week, Alberta is making sure they don't let up.
In their three-set win over UBC Okanagan, there were only two lead changes the entire match and both came early in the second set, and then Alberta exploded and finished the second set with a 12-4 run to win it 25-9.
"There are all sorts of distractions this time of year, but it doesn't matter what the distraction is, you have to keep your focus where it needs to be," said Eisler. "We've challenged ourselves to do that and I thought we did a good job of that.
"We tried to focus on doing good things when we have the ball and force them to make a play and we stuck with it and stayed focused and kept in control."
It's been a tough season for the Heat. They've been a perennial Canada West powerhouse over the last several years, but are in rebuild mode this season.
The inexperienced Heat was overmatched at times against Alberta and are without their fourth-year outside hitter Ann Richards, who's their most potent attacker.
"Our young players are doing all they can and trying to do as much as we can. We have to take the positives out of it, and our girls battled," said Heat head coach Steve Manuel.
"We got more confident as the game wore on, but we had lots of nerves. Being young, we just make way too many errors and we don't make the easy play and good teams keep coming at you.
"We don't have a lot of veterans to lean on for support, but they're learning and I know we're going to be better in the long run."
Alberta and UBC Okanagan will finish their weekend series Saturday night at 5 p.m. MT.