Griffins have no answer for Bobcats' serving, blocking game in straight-sets defeat

Jefferson Morrow hits into a Brandon double block set up by Chayse Warkentin and Reece Dixon on Saturday. The Bobcats blocked much of what the Griffins were trying to do (Eduardo Perez photo).
Jefferson Morrow hits into a Brandon double block set up by Chayse Warkentin and Reece Dixon on Saturday. The Bobcats blocked much of what the Griffins were trying to do (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Displaying a dizzying arsenal of spin serves and a giant block that shut down much of what the MacEwan Griffins were trying to do, the Brandon Bobcats cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win in Canada West men's volleyball action on Saturday at the David Atkinson Gym.

It was easy to see why the 'Cats came into the weekend ranked as the No. 2 team in U SPORTS as they took control from start to finish, wrapping up a 25-15, 25-19, 25-12 win that improves their record to 9-1. MacEwan, meanwhile, falls to 1-7 after the defeat.

"I'm pleased with the guys' focus tonight," said Brandon head coach Grant Wilson. "I thought we were into it right from the first serve and never took our foot off the gas. I'm definitely pleased with how we played throughout."

Robin Baghdady led the Bobcats with 10 kills, while Elliott Viles had three aces to go along with five kills and four blocks.

It was a response the coach was looking for after his Bobcats left the door open in Friday's match against the Griffins and had to grind out a tough victory, even if it was also of the straight-sets variety.

On Friday, MacEwan's Max Vriend nearly burned them on his own with a match-high 16 kills, but good teams adjust. And adjust the Bobcats did, holding Vriend to just six kills on Saturday with a -.077 efficiency.

"We had to be better," said Wilson. "We're going to face great players like him all year, so we've got to be able to learn to make those adjustments and I thought the guys did a good job of that.

"Part of that comes from our serving. I thought we served a lot better tonight and put them under a fair bit of pressure. It was just a little bit easier to set up our block defence the way we wanted to, and things worked out."

Vriend's uncharacteristically low numbers wouldn't necessarily have spelled the end for the Griffins if they had anyone else going. But MacEwan produced just 15 kills on 57 attempts for an egregious -.018 team attacking percentage.

"That was a clinic by them blocking," said MacEwan head coach Brad Poplawski. "They saw last night what Max was going to do and they made adjustments. We struggled with it. They're a really, really good blocking team. It's a big block.

"When that happens, you need other guys going and we had nothing. Our middles couldn't do anything, our other outsides couldn't (either)."

It all started with the serve, serve-receive battle, which was won handily by the Bobcats. They recorded eight service aces and had the Griffins out of system for most of the match.

"We need to be a better serving team," said Wilson. "That's been our goal from the end of last year until now and that continues to be our focus. We need to be comfortable serving tough in all situations. Tonight, I thought we did a good job of that."

That's sharp contrast to how Poplawski feels about his team's serve-receive on Saturday.

"Awful, that's all you can say," he said. "We started the match until the first technical (timeout) I thought we passed pretty well, it was our offence that wasn't getting the job done. Then it was just a complete implosion.

"It's frustrating because we talk and talk about it, work on it and I don't know if guys aren't able to make the necessary adjustments or aren't willing, but that was a free lesson what a big serving team can do to you. They served us off the court."

The Griffins will next host Manitoba on Nov. 29-20, while Brandon returns home to host UBC-Okanagan on the same nights.