Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – The Saskatchewan Huskies recovered from a momentum slide just in time to seal a 3-1 victory over the MacEwan Griffins in Canada West men's volleyball action on Friday night.
But the Griffins deserve full marks for causing that slide and they have plenty to hang their hat on after taking a set off a top-10 team in the U Sports ranks.
After Saskatchewan jumped out to a 2-0 lead (25-20, 25-21), the Griffins dominated the third set, winning 25-17.
"We take a ton from tonight," said MacEwan head coach Brad Poplawski. "That's the ninth-ranked team in the country and we gave them literally all they could handle.
"There's some things we need to recognize and get better at, but the guys battled their asses off."
MacEwan's momentum carried over into the fourth set, where they went toe to toe with the Huskies at the beginning, fell behind by five points and then mounted a furious comeback only to fall short on a lengthy rally for the 25th point. Saskatchewan took the set 25-23 on Colin Fraser's kill.
Fraser wound up with a monster outing of 12 kills and 15 digs, while Andrew Nelson stretched his team kills lead with a game-high 14 on the evening for Saskatchewan.
"The result is good," said Saskatchewan head coach Joel Dyck, whose team improves to 2-1 on the season. "The process and how we went about it tonight ... the first couple of sets were decent. The third and fourth were a little bit frustrating at times, but they played a little bit better.
"They responded and it was good to see some fight from them. They had some confidence and made it difficult on us at times."
That's the moral victory that Poplawski has even though his squad is now 0-3 on the season.
"They did a lot of the things we needed to do to be successful," he said. "Obviously it wasn't enough, but it was a lot. To me that's encouraging that this group is improving and changing the things they need to change."
Shane Kerrison, who entered the game as the Canada West kills leader, added 13 to his total to pace the Griffins, while adding five digs and two blocks. Kai Hesthammer added 10 kills and six digs.
"We played calm, cool and collected," said Kerrison of the third set win. "We didn't make very many errors on the serving line, our offence was good, and passing was good. Everyone was getting involved.
"Even the last one, we fought hard and came close. We need to start off like that tomorrow."
The teams will meet again on Saturday (1:30 p.m., CCC).
Poplawski's squad will be watching some video as they aim to carry over some momentum won late in the game.
"Our comeback in the fourth – we have to take a lot of positives from it," he said. "We have to learn to not wait until it's 24-20 to have that focus, but I'm extremely pleased with some of the things we saw tonight.
"That team is big, they're physical, they apply a lot of service pressure. It's a big block. We did things we talked about that we needed to do all week. So there's a ton of positives from tonight."