Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON — Cassidy Kinsella lined up behind the basketball court line and lobbed a high floating heater of a serve. Off a Brandon defender and into the seats.
She did it again. And again. Each serve putting the Bobcats out of system.
At one point, the fourth-year outside hitter held court for six straight early in the second set as Brandon fell behind and couldn't recover. At the end of Friday evening, the Griffins had put an end to their five-game losing streak with a 3-1 win (25-21, 25-14, 22-25, 25-19) in Canada West women's volleyball action.
"This means a lot to show that our work every week – there's something at the end of the tunnel," said MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs after earning a weekend split with the visiting Bobcats to move to 4-12 in the standings.
Recording 11 service aces usually means success. Kinsella led the way with four, while Claire McLoughlin and McKenna Stevenson each had three.
"They served really tough and forced us to go high-ball offence," said Brandon head coach Lee Carter. "It was way different than last time. They worked hard on that, obviously, today."
Briggs noted the biggest difference, however, from a night earlier when they were swept 3-0 by the Bobcats was their defence.
"We made a defensive adjustment today and felt comfortable with it, and it worked," he said. "We got a little more offence from everybody. I just thought the people that needed to be solid were solid right from the get go."
As the first set went on, the Griffins found their rhythm and were soon executing at as high a level as they have been all season. McLoughlin set an excellent varied attack that featured lots of Kinsella and Kate Rozendaal with some Lauren Holmes and Carly Weber mixed in. Aided by a 6-1 run into the technical timeout, the Griffins took control, ending the set when Rozendaal sent an off-balance kill from the left side off the block and down.
After Kinsella's serving staked the Griffins to a 9-3 lead in the second set, MacEwan never let up, putting the Bobcats out of system the whole way. Fittingly, they won the set when Weber smashed down an overbump off Holmes' hot serve.
The Bobcats finally found their stride in the third set and threw the Griffins' defence so off balance at one point that Ravyn Wiebe's right-side kill mid-set went unblocked. But MacEwan hung around and managed to level the score at 22, only to give away three-straight points on two missed kill attempts by Kinsella and another by Rozendaal.
"The hardest thing in volleyball is to win three-straight sets," said Briggs. "The worst thing was having that second game be a blowout because then you just expect things (to go well). But to our credit, maybe all of this work in the last little while paid off."
Brandon carried the momentum into the fourth set, going up 7-0 off the hop as Mary Thomson never relinquished the serve.
"We came back serving a little bit more aggressive and found a way to get into it," said Carter. "We played pretty good off the start of the fourth, but constantly going to the same high system is tough on people. Kudos to them on their serving."
McLoughlin answered back right away in the fourth with eight-straight serves of her own and the Griffins took over, closing out the match on Holmes' back row roll shot.
Kinsella not only led the Griffins in aces, but in kills, too – her 19 tops for all players on the court. Rozendaal added 12, while Holmes chipped in 10. McLoughlin set a great game, piling up 43 assists.
"I thought we passed really well," said Briggs. "We did a lot of things really well. We still made a lot of errors, but luckily they made the same number."
Both Wiebe and Nikala Majewski led Brandon with eight kills each, but the latter had a debilitating -0.65 hitting percentage.
Beyond the statistics, Briggs was impressed with his younger players.
"To watch the young ones like Carly Weber in the middle, she's getting stronger each week," he said. "This is all new to her. You throw a first year out there against a good setter like that who's moving the ball around, and she did awesome.
"Rachel (Jorvina) was amazing," he added. "She just came in there and solidified our defence. It was fun to watch. She got her opportunity and she used it."
Next up for the Griffins is a trip to Mount Royal (5-9) on Jan. 27-28, while Brandon, now 5-11 in the standings, returns home to host Manitoba (6-10) on the same dates.