Griffins crushed under weight of errors, might of top-ranked Bisons

Griffins crushed under weight of errors, might of top-ranked Bisons

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON — When you make 19 errors in three sets against the No. 1-ranked team in the country … let's just say, it's not going to end well. 

That was the unfortunate case for the MacEwan Griffins, who were steamrolled 3-0 (25-19, 25-17, 25-20) by the University of Manitoba Bisons on Friday night to fall to 4-17 on the Canada West men's volleyball campaign.

Realistically, they would have needed to be perfect to have any chance against a veteran-laden Bisons squad that boasts eight fifth-year players and seems to be clicking at a higher rate than anyone else at the moment.

"It looks like we were trying to be perfect," said Griffins head coach Brad Poplawski. "We were trying to hit the perfect shot instead of the right shot and too many errors came from that.

"They're an excellent team, don't get me wrong, but I thought we just made way too many hitting errors. Guy would make the right choice on a three-man block – a tip – but he'd tip it out of bounds. So the thought process was OK at times, but the execution was terrible."

Poplawski did say going in that this would be an awesome test for his young Griffins squad and it certainly was that and more. Manitoba seemed to toy with MacEwan at times as kills rained down from the left, right, the middle and the back. 

In the end, it added up to the Bisons' 19th win of the season, pushing their Canada West-leading record to 20-1. 

"I think it was a pretty smooth win," said Bisons head coach Garth Pischke. "I thought we played well for the whole match. 

"MacEwan pushed us a little bit at times; they did some good things. They're a young team and got on some rolls. I think we weathered the storm in those situations and kept our composure, kept our passing going and managed to keep the pressure on them."

For example, the Griffins fought back in the third set to tie the game at 18 only to have Manitoba modify a couple of things and lead 20-18, going away, in the blink of an eye. Scott Vercaigne's block off the right ended the match just an hour and five minutes after it started.

"We worked really hard to tie it at 18, but they know how to push and we didn't respond well," said Poplawski. "We were just not adapting to what they were doing. I don't know if it's because their level's so high or what, but we made it way too easy on them.

"Again, they're excellent attackers, but we gave them way too many clean looks where we weren't even in the right vicinity to take up court on our block."

But when you have eight fifth-year players and another five in their fourth year, your chemistry should be rock solid. Clearly, the Bisons have national championship aspirations and this win over MacEwan is a small blip on the radar to getting there. 

"It's a fun team to coach," said Pischke. "We're basically all Winnipeg kids and they've played together their entire career. They started off here and have gotten better every year.

"For me as a coach, it's really fun to see that development and see everybody improve. To watch them in their first year and the level they're playing at now, it's really gratifying for me." 

Adam DeJonckheere led the Bisons with 12 kills on .556 hitting percentage, while Evan Jackson chipped in 11 on a .625 mark. Setter Luke Herr had 39 assists, while middle Ken Rooney led the team with four blocks. 

Poplawski points to a moment early in the second set when the match turned for the worse for MacEwan. 

"For me, the turning point was in the second set," he said. "We were tied very, very early in the set and they pass an overbump and it scored on our side. To me, that flipped the whole script in that set.

"It's a little thing, but little things add up to big things. A team like that doesn't make too many errors, so when you get a free ball …

"This team is still realizing that a lot of little things equal big things," he continued. "We understand it, but we don't know how to play a match where we don't let them add up."

Kai Hesthammer led the Griffins with nine kills and six digs, but the team numbers weren't favourable for MacEwan, as they finished with a .175 hitting percentage to Manitoba's .532.

The teams will meet again on Saturday night (6:30 p.m., City Centre Campus) when the Griffins will honour three graduating players as part of Senior Night – setters Matt Mohler and Josh Peters, and outside hitter Ryan McDonald.