EDMONTON – It's hard to believe a match can be all but over after the first set, but the MacEwan Griffins never recovered after failing to close out the opening game in their match against Saskatchewan on Friday night.
As a result, they lost in straight sets, falling 3-0 to the Huskies to sap the energy from their home opener at City Centre Campus gym.
Up 24-21 in the opening set, the Griffins gave up five consecutive points to lose 26-24.
"I think the first set ... we had it in the bag," said second-year middle Haley Gilfillan, who led the Griffins with 10 kills. "We were up 24-21. I just think we made too many unforced errors. They played well, but we made too many unforced errors that cost us the first set. I think after that our momentum was down.
"We came back in the second and the same thing happened. They got on a run. After that, I think the momentum was down."
While MacEwan played right with Saskatchewan in the first set, any run they had after that was shut down by the Huskies, who were particularly strong on defence.
"You don't give up leads like that," said Griffins head coach Ken Briggs. "We let that affect us. They had another gear and we just couldn't find it quick enough."
The Huskies seems to build off that, cruising to their first win of the season.
"That first set's pretty important to start of the match," said Saskatchewan head coach Mark Dodds, whose team moves to 1-2 on the Canada West campaign. "You gain a little momentum and confidence. It was a dogfight at the end of that set there. We made a couple good plays and a couple good serves to pull it out."
Saskatchewan went on to win 25-16 in Set 2, building an early lead that the Griffins never recovered from.
In the third set, MacEwan started strong again, but couldn't adjust when the Huskies steeled and started bleeding points toward the end, falling 25-19.
"The third set's always the toughest to win," said Briggs. "We went toe to toe right up until that 20 mark. That's what we've been working on. We made mistakes. We shot ourselves in the foot, but give them credit. They served us tough."
The Huskies had 11 aces in the match, led by four from Taylor Ammala.
"We did not get into any kind of rhythm after that," said Briggs. "So that was disappointing. We started out really well. Our game plan was solid, we defended, we blocked really well. Our defence was incredible. Some of the digs that were made were amazing. We scored in the middle. We did everything right, but we couldn't pull away."
Karlie Edgar led the Griffins with 12 kills, while Gilfillan and Rozendaal topped the team in blocks with three each. But the errors ended up being too much to overcome.
"I think we can learn to make adjustments sooner on what they're swinging," said Gilfillan. "We didn't force the middle a lot in our first sets, which caused a double block on the outside. We can open up the single block on the outside if we can pass a little bit.
"There's lots of things that we can do to play better that hopefully we can do tomorrow."
The two teams will meet again on Saturday (12 p.m., CCC).