SASKATOON – The 2018-19 Canada West regular season came to an end for a University of Saskatchewan Huskies women's volleyball team that finished just outside the playoffs after a 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 27-25) loss to the Mount Royal Cougars inside the PAC on February 16.
"Not an ideal season overall but we had an unbelievable team, the work and effort that they put in and the enjoyment they had in doing it makes coaching a lot of fun," said Huskies head coach Mark Dodds.
The victory was huge for the Cougars, who came back from a large deficit in the third set to pick up an important sweep. Mount Royal finishes the regular season with a record of 12-12 and will now await scores from around the league to see if they have earned a spot in the playoffs. They are currently in a four-way tie for sixth on 24 points and one of those four teams will miss the postseason.
"It's been do-or-die pretty much all second semester and these guys have just found a way," said Cougars head coach Sandra Lamb. "We had to beat a top-ranked team in Calgary and then we come into a tough barn here and have to win three-straight in order to give ourselves a chance, so I'm just proud of them, they've done what they can to this point and we just hope that the chips fall where they should."
The visitors dominated that stat sheet, outhitting Saskatchewan .269 - .111 per cent, recording four-and-half more blocks while also firing in seven service aces.
Cassidy Kitchen led the way for the Cougars with a game-high 15 kills and 18 digs. Not far behind Kitchen were Chantel Park and Nicky Zalasky who finished the game with 10 and eight kills respectively.
Emily Koshinsky had eight kills to lead the Huskies, while fifth-year setter Alexandra Frank had 20 assists in the contest.
Mount Royal dominated the first two sets of the match, jumping out to early leads and staying ahead en route to victories of 25-17 and 25-14.
The third set is where things got truly interesting. With Mount Royal knowing that they needed a straight-sets sweep to boost their sets won and loss record for a potential playoff tie-breaker, it was Saskatchewan that controlled the proceedings early.
A kill from Koshinsky gave the Huskies set point at 24-20 but the Cougars rallied thanks in part to three kills from Park to give themselves a set point at 26-25. From there the fourth year from Blackfelds, AB closed things out from the service line, recording an ace to end the game and keep the Cougars' playoff hopes alive.
"We got a little bit tight, stuff starts creeping into your mind instead of just playing the game," said Lamb of the third set. "In the end we just went out and played free."
The game marked the final contest for a trio of graduating Huskies as Alexandra Frank, Georgia Hurry and Regan Wiebe will all graduate from the program after playing some outstanding seasons for Saskatchewan.
"I'm only in my fourth year but it doesn't become any easier as you go along, these players are the heart and soul of the team, having the volleyball knowledge and maturity that they have, it's tough to see them go," said Dodds. "The exciting part is who is going to step into those roles next year and take on that leadership role on the team."