Connor Hood - Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON - The University of Alberta Pandas tied their program record with a 16th consecutive win, defeating the Trinity Western Spartans 3-2 (25-21, 21-25, 25-23, 19-25, 19-17) Saturday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
The win improves the U SPORTS No. 1 Pandas to 16-0 in Canada West conference play, tops overall. The Spartans, meanwhile, fall to 15-3 after suffering back-to-back losses against the Pandas, but remain in the second overall spot.
Fifth-year hitter Meg Casault finished with a team-high 18 kills on a massive 57 attempts. The veteran has now accumulated 1,212 career kills, and needs 43 over her final eight matches to pass Tawana Wardlaw for the Canada West all-time record.
Fellow fifth-year Sophie Carpentier led the game with 19 kills on Saturday, while Elizabeth Wendel chipped in with 18 kills of her own in the loss.
The host Pandas used a substantial hitting percentage advantage to earn the opening set win, finishing with 12 kills on 24 attempts with just two errors (0.417), dominating the Spartans who finished 12 for 32 with a staggering nine attack errors (0.094). Casualt racked up six of her 18 kills in the first set, with middle Shauny Hogg chipping in three in the Pandas 25-21 win.
The second set was much better for the visitors, as they used nine total blocks to smother the Pandas en route to a 25-21 set win of their own.
The tremendous back-and-forth match continued in the third, as the Pandas came away with a tightly contested 25-23 victory. Despite Wendel using her fantastic left-handed power stroke for five kills in the set, TWU couldn't quite claw back from an 18-14 deficit.
The Spartans earned some revenge in the fourth, using another three massive blocks as well as a much improved hitting percentage to force a fifth and deciding set. TWU raced out to a quick 17-10 set lead, with four kills from each Wendel and Carpentier, before coasting to a 25-19 win.
The fifth set was easily the most enjoyable, with both teams exchanging massive kills and blocks. The match seemed like it would finish in favour of the Spartans, as the visitors jumped out to a 12-7 lead. However, the Pandas fought back to level the match at 13, before saving a match point at 15-14. The Pandas needed five match points of their own, with a Casault service ace clinching the thrilling win.
The Pandas will go for a record 17th straight win next weekend, as they host the Mount Royal Cougars at Saville Community Sports Centre.