Bears use the fourth to claim victory

Bears use the fourth to claim victory

Paul Cartledge - Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics

EDMONTON – Finding new hope in the fourth set, the No.4 University of Alberta Golden Bears inch a bit closer to clinching a playoff spot with a five-set effort (22-25, 25-19, 19-25, 25-18, 15-10) over the Mount Royal University Cougars, Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.

Senior outside hitter Ryan Nickifor spun a game-high 20 kills, including five in the fourth set, while third-year outside hitter Chris Towe added 16. Team captain and senior setter Brett Walsh recorded 51 assists, two aces, and six digs in the win that improved the Bears to 14-3.

Third-year outside hitter Tyler Schmidt led the visitors with 18 kills and eight digs while fourth-year outside hitter Riley Friesen earned 15 kills, a solo block, and two block assists. Third-year setter Tanner Greves put up 47 assists in the loss, which saw Mount Royal fall to 10-7 but still in playoff position. 

Appearing to still be feeling the ill effects of losing in straight sets at home last Saturday, the Bears started out slowly but managed to keep pace for half of the set until a short 4-0 run fueled by two Schmidt kills had the visitors up for good. The two squads went point-for-point but the Bears couldn't tie things up on the scoreboard, ending things when fourth-year middle Chris Morrow's serve went long.

The back-and-forth affair continued into the second set, yet Alberta was earning more points off Cougar errors than their own offence. Fortunately for the home team, Nickifor and Towe combined for eight kills in the set, the former getting two kills off the Mount Royal block in the final points to tie the set score up at one.

The two squads tied up the score an incredible 15 times in the third set, the last time at 18-18 before the Cougars initiated a 7-1 run as Schmidt finished off the set with a kill off the block, his 14th of the night.

Yet the Calgary native was only held to one kill in the penultimate set, the Bears exploding with a 7-0 run to break a 3-3 tie and carrying the momentum through the rest of the set, never letting their lead get lower than six points before third-year Mount Royal outside hitter Nick Lightfoot sailed his serve out of bounds to tie the set score at two.

Brimming with confidence, Alberta attacked at a game-high 37.5% in the final set and opened up a 7-3 lead in the final set before a late Cougar push closed the lead to three at 12-9. Sophomore outside hitter Matt Saly's service error halted the momentum, however, leading to Alberta netting three of the match's last four points, rookie middle George Hobern spinning a lateral kill just inside the Mount Royal court at the net to claim the victory for the home team.

The 14-3 Bears and 10-6 Cougars will conclude the weekend series on Saturday night, game time at approximately 6:30 p.m. MT.