EDMONTON - The two-time CIS defending champions continue to roll along, the undefeated No.2 University of Alberta Golden Bears earning their sixth-straight win, and fifth in straight sets (25-23, 25-19, 25-15), sweeping the No.8 University of Saskatchewan Huskies in their weekend series, Saturday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Impressively, the Bears have won all but one of their 19 sets in the young varsity season, tonight's victory led by senior left side/right side Ryley Barnes who had a game-high 15 kills while fourth-year Ryan Nickifor, who plays the same position, added nine. Fourth-year setter Brett Walsh recorded 38 assists to crack the Top 10 in career assists in conference play in Canada West history, the Calgary native now with a total of 2,326.
Fourth-year right side Andrew Nelson spun a team-high eight kills for the visitors, senior left side Jordan Nowakowski and fourth-year middle Tyler Epp contributing seven apiece, while Nowakowski added two aces.
The Bears had a little bit of help early in the first set, Saskatchewan making multiple errors to open up 3-0 and 4-1 leads for Alberta but Nelson helped get the teams back on even terms as part of his seven-kill performance in the opening set.
Neither team could get more than a two-point lead on their opponent after that, however, Nickifor powering one into senior setter Emory Wells on the ground but sending his next chance, a quick cross-court attempt, wide. Fortunately for the Sherwood Park, Alta. native, his next kill went off the Huskie block and down on to their side of the court to give the Bears a 1-0 set lead.
The second set featured more momentum swings, the dramatic kills by Barnes energizing the hometown crowd as well as egging on the road team, but a Goranson smash broke a 14-14 tie and started a 5-0 run that Alberta used to propel themselves to a 2-0 set lead, Goranson and Walsh combining for a block to lead to the final set.
The Bears, who came into the weekend as the second-most efficient team in the country when it comes to hitting percentage, attacked at a 57% clip in the third set, a 10-2 run putting Alberta up 15-6 for an insurmountable lead before Barnes put the final nail in the coffin with a kill off the block and into the nearby bleachers.
The 6-0 Bears will remain in Edmonton next weekend but head to MacEwan University to square off against their city rivals, the Griffins, while 4-4 Saskatchewan takes a "bye" week before returning to action against the Dinos in Calgary.