By Danielle Doiron
Winnipeg, MB – The University of Manitoba Bison women's volleyball team put up a fight against the best team in the league, but the #1 University of Alberta Pandas took the first game of the weekend set 3-1 (23-25, 25-22, 25-14, 25-21) at Investors Group Athletic Centre on Friday, November 18.
The Pandas are now 5-0 this season, while the Bisons fall to 2-5 after their third consecutive loss.
"I thought they stayed together. I thought they played tough," Bison head coach Jon Hykawy said about his team.
"Overall, it's another good effort, but good doesn't get you the wins. We've got to find a way to win. They're a good team – I won't take that away. They're the best team in the country, and we're not there yet, but we're getting there. It's a good game for us."
Alberta's Meg Casault led both squads with 17 kills, while Manitoba's Kearley Abbott had 12.
The teams kicked off a close, hard-fought contest in the first. Casault racked up six kills in the opening set alone, but four Manitoba hitters each recorded three kills. Neither side held more than a few points' advantage at any given time until Manitoba's Sarah Klassen made it 25-23 with a powerful kill.
The game stayed just as tight in the second, until, shortly after the technical timeout, the Pandas scored five unanswered points to take a 23-17 lead. A kill and then subsequent attack error by Bison Allison Alcock brought the teams to set point, but the home side wasn't done yet. Manitoba responded, winning six consecutive rallies and forcing an Alberta timeout, before the Pandas took the set 25-23 on a Vanessa Jarman kill.
Alberta's offence shone in the third. The Bisons trailed from the first rally of the set, but the Pandas really broke away after a Manitoba service error gave the visitors a 10-6 lead. Alberta held the home side to only five points for the better part of the set, while the Pandas dominated the court, scoring on four consecutive service aces and eventually winning the third 25-14.
Manitoba broke out to early lead in the fourth, winning nine of the first 11 rallies. Sarah Klassen led the home side with three kills before the technical timeout (where the Bisons were up 16-10). But, soon after, the Pandas showed why they're the top team in the league. Alberta held the home team to only five more points for the rest of the game, while the Pandas dominated. Jarman led the way with four kills in the final rallies of the set, and Alberta won the fourth 25-21 and the match 3-1.
"I thought we played great for a long period of time," Hykawy said. "We're young. We don't want to use that as an excuse, but I thought we played hard. They are a very good team, and we have to make some adjustments to get better for tomorrow."
Game 2 of the weekend set takes place on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. CT at Investors Group Athletic Centre.
Set scores (Bisons listed first): 25-23, 22-25, 14-25, 21-25
MB: Kearley Abbott (12)
AB: Meg Casault (17)
MB: Sydney Booker (44)
AB: Mariah Walsh (44)
MB: Kearley Abbott (14), Sydney Booker (14)
AB: Meg Casault (12), Eryn Orysiuk (12)
Total block leaders
MB: Kearley Abbott (5)
AB: Shauny Hogg (7), Vanessa Jarman (7)