By Paul Cartledge
MVB: Bears sweep WolfPack to end first half of season
EDMONTON – The No.6 University of Alberta Golden Bears end the 2017 half of the regular season on a great note, sweeping the weekend series with the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack with a straight-sets win (25-20, 25-15, 25-18), Sunday afternoon at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Conference kill leader Taryq Sani led the Bears with 14 kills, finishing the first half of the varsity season with the most kills (190) and the highest average (4.13 kills/set) in the conference, adding three aces and 1.5 blocks. Fourth-year left side Alex McMullin netted 11 kills while fourth-year setter Luke Brisbane recorded 32 assists.
Third-year outside hitters Charlie Bringloe and Joshua Mullaney led the visitors with nine and seven kills, respectively, sophomore setter Jakob Hamilton adding 23 assists.
Alberta improves to 9-3 to create a three-way tie for fourth place in the Canada West standings with Calgary and Brandon while Thompson Rivers drops to 2-10, putting them six points back of Manitoba and UBC Okanagan who currently hold the seventh and eighth playoff spots.
The opening set was a back-and-forth affair, but a Sani kill followed by two consecutive aces put the Bears up for good, taking advantage of the WolfPack's five service errors in the set as Mullaney put the last one long to give Alberta the 1-0 set lead.
Unfortunately for the flow of the second set, service errors plagued both teams, but the Bears put together a 10-2 run to give them a commanding 20-11 lead, keeping Thompsons Rivers in the set with a couple more gaffes at the service line before Sani found space in front of the back row for a set-point kill.
The visitors kept fighting in the final set, not wanting to head home early, but a 7-2 run gave the Bears a four-point lead at 15-11, the U SPORTS silver medalists using that slight advantage to go point-for-point to close out the third set.
Bringloe unfortunately sent his fourth serve into the net (all four being service errors) to set up set point, causing Thompson Rivers head coach Pat Hennelly to try subbing in fourth-year outside hitter Cole Keddie to shake things up, only to have the Edmonton native fall victim to a Sani kill, the big swing heading out but Keddie's outstretched arm caught the ball before going out.
The Bears finish the 2017 half of the regular season with a 9-3 record. They next host Pepperdine University during the break for two non-conference games on December 29 and 31, heading to UBC Okanagan in the new year to rejoin the regular season on January 5. The WolfPack next encounter conference play when they head to Mount Royal, also on January 5.