MVB: WolfPack sweep Bears with five-set stunner

MVB: WolfPack sweep Bears with five-set stunner

Jason Hills, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics

EDMONTON — The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack served notice to the rest of the country. In one of their biggest wins in program history, Thompson Rivers swept the No.5 ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears in a five-set marathon (25-19, 23-25, 14-25, 25-16, 15-8) to earn a 2-0 series victory, Saturday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.

Senior outside hitter Tim Dobbert led Thompson Rivers with 23 kills, while third-year outside hitter Taryq Sani led Alberta with 18 kills in the loss.

Playing in his final home game as a Golden Bear, senior outside hitter Alex McMullin had 17 kills and five digs.

For the WolfPack, it was pure jubilation. For Alberta, absolute heartbreak.

The devastating loss ends the Golden Bears chances of a Canada West title, and a berth in the 2019 U SPORTS National Championship next month hangs by a thread, which would end a 19-year streak for Alberta qualifying for nationals.

"As a coach, all I'm thinking about right now is what I could've done better," said Golden Bears associate coach Brock Davidiuk.

"How could I have helped the guys more? This hurts. This is devastating. But I care about these guys a lot and I want to make sure they're OK."

After falling in the opening set, Alberta staged a huge comeback in the second set to swing the momentum back in their favour. For the first time in the series, it felt like Alberta was about to take control.

They did in a big way and dominated the third set, jumping all over Thompson Rivers and not giving them any chance to stage any kind of momentum as they cruised to a 25-14 win.

"When we won the second set, I thought we were going to win the match," said Davidiuk.

"In the fourth, I thought we were poised, but we couldn't close the deal."

Thompson Rivers responded back with a big set of their own in the fourth set. The WolfPack have lived and died with their service game all season long and this weekend, their serve game was a major difference in the series.

"They're an incredible serving team. The serving in this conference has become a lot better and this is the best I've ever seen them serve," said Davidiuk. "That was one side of their game we weren't able to neutralize was how tough they were serving."

The WolfPack had eight service aces and when they weren't serving aces, they kept the pressure on Alberta.

Thompson Rivers also pounced every time they could sense the momentum swinging in their direction.
"For me, this win is so special. We've never swept these guys and we've never beat them in the playoffs, and this just feels awesome," said WolfPack head coach Pat Hennelly.

"We've worked on our serves all year and it's been up and down. We've been riding this wave and, this weekend, it worked out well for us.

"It's unfortunate for the Bears because they're truly a national championship contender and I hope we can take this series win and do it justice."

The Bears early post-season exit marks the final home game for McMullin, along with fellow senior middle George Hobern, libero Jared Schubert, setter Luke Brisbane, and outside hitter Clark Spencer.

"It stings, but we weren't good enough today or yesterday and there were too many aspects that they were more solid at than we were and it showed," said McMullin.

"It's not how we wanted our season to end, but I'll certainly cherish so many memories. It's been fun."

The WolfPack move on to the semifinals next weekend, their opponent to be determined from the rest of the Saturday night quarter-final action.