Connor Hood - Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON - The University of Alberta Golden Bears volleyball team punched their ticket to the Canada West Final Four, defeating the Mount Royal Cougars 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-19), sweeping their best-of-three quarter-final series 2-0, Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
The Golden Bears now advance to the conference Final Four, hosted by the No. 1 Manitoba Bisons, next weekend in Winnipeg, MB. This is the 29th-consecutive season the Golden Bears will partake in the Canada West semifinal, with the last time the Bears missed the semifinal or Final Four coming in 1988.
The win was also the 700th career win for Golden Bears head coach Terry Danyluk, as he becomes the third coach in University of Alberta history to reach 700 career wins (Laurie Eisler - PVB, Clare Drake - GBH, GBF).
Alex McMullin led Alberta for the second-straight night, finishing Game 2 with 15 kills on 30 attacks, also registering three digs and a pair of aces. Fifth-year setter Brett Walsh finished with 45 assists, 10 more than MRU Cougar Samuel Brisbane.
Fourth-year hitter Riley Friesen led the Cougars with 15 kills on Friday, drastically lowering his error total from the previous night, finishing with just one attack error and three service errors.
Coming off a tightly-contested five-set match the previous night, the first set followed a similar script, with neither team able to generate much of a lead early on. The Bears slowly took control of the first set at 13-13, running off a quick 7-4 run. McMullin and Taylor Schmidt had themselves a strong first set, with five kills for the Bear, and seven for Schmidt and MRU. A 4-2 run gave Alberta a 25-20 set win.
The second set was more of the same, as the gritty Cougars wouldn't allow the Bears to fully take over. However, the depth of Alberta paid off late, with an 11-4 stretch giving the Bears a 25-18 set win. Fifth-year outside hitter Kevin Proudfoot led Alberta with six kills in the set, with McMullin spinning in another four.
The resilient Cougars wouldn't end their season easily, once again putting up a fight in the third. Both teams exchanged points, as a Ryan Nickifor kill gave Alberta a slight 12-8 lead. However, a 9-2 Bears run all but iced the straight-sets win, as they cruised late to a 25-19 third set win.
The Golden Bears, along with the Manitoba Bisons, will await the other two quarter-final winners in the conference Final Four. With the Bears advancing to the semifinal, all four semifinal teams will advance to the U SPORTS FOG Men's Volleyball Championship, hosted by the University of Alberta, March 17-19 at Saville Community Sports Centre.