Lyndon hits 1,500 career assist milestone in final match, but Griffins lose 3-1 to Heat

Alexander Lyndon finished with six kills, 38 assists, two aces, five digs and two blocks in his final match (Eduardo Perez photo).
Alexander Lyndon finished with six kills, 38 assists, two aces, five digs and two blocks in his final match (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – It was almost a dream finish for graduating setter Alexander Lyndon in his final match, as he became just the second Griffins player to hit the prestigious 1,500 career Canada West assist milestone in the third set against UBC Okanagan on Saturday night.

The only thing missing was a win.

MacEwan battled hard but fell 3-1 to the Heat (25-20, 25-17, 23-25, 25-22) and will finish the season with a 1-23 record. UBCO finishes one notch above them in the standings at 3-21.

"I think we just really, really wanted that one," said Lyndon. "We really wanted to end on a win. It's a shame we didn't get it, but we played hard. It was a close one and it was exciting. I'm glad we could compete in that one. It's a shame about the result, but I guess that's life."

Only Matt Mohler, who recorded 2,045 assists in MacEwan's first three Canada West seasons (2014-17) has had more in program history, and the 1,500 milestone is certainly a nice accomplishment for Lyndon to finish his career on.

"I think it's a nice tip on the cap for a long career and it's a credit to the guys I've played with," he said. "We've kind of had a few good seasons lately. It's nice to get that accolade at the end of my career."

Mitchel Gorman led the Griffins with 17 kills and 17.0 points on his final night as a Griffin, finishing with 332 career kills and 369.0 career points (both seventh in the program's CW history). 

And libero Daniel Hebert, the third member of the Griffins playing in his final game, had nine digs to finish with 333 for his career, passing Jordan Peters (330) for fifth in the program's Canada West era.

Seba Manuel led UBCO with 17 kills on a sizzling .593 hitting percentage, while Lucas Woelders had 15 kills and 11 digs, Renn Petryk produced 14 kills and two aces, and Zach van Geel had 50 assists and two aces.

Mitchel Gorman led the Griffins with 17 kills in his final match (Eduardo Perez photo).

"We kind of started all right tonight, (didn't have) a good end to the first, and then we were just really flat in the second," said MacEwan head coach Brad Poplawski. "UBCO went with a lot more physical lineup tonight and it just took us too long to adjust. That's why we had that slow start. 

"Obviously, we wanted to still be playing right now in that fifth set, but I am happy that the third and fourth we battled and you saw those good sides from Alex, Mitch and Dan. They got to get in some long rallies where they got to make some good athletic plays. To show that in their last hurrah with us, they were able to show that off one more time for their teammates, coaches and the crowd. I was happy that our team rallied, and it included some nice moments for them."

Indeed, the Griffins would have wanted more out the opening set as they led early and were in a neck-and-neck battle until UBCO went on a 5-1 run to close it out and gained momentum.

In the second set, the Heat led the entire way as the Griffins seemed flat after an emotional first victory of the season over them a night earlier.

But MacEwan dug deep and found their game in a scrappy third set that featured arguing amongst players and coaches, two yellow cards and finally a red card to a UBCO coach that proved to be the turning point. The Heat were leading 20-19 at the time and threatening to pull away, but the Griffins took control after that, ending it on Jonah Karsten's quick kill in the middle.

Lyndon reached his 1,500 assists milestone on MacEwan's 13th point – a kill from Aidan MacLennnan that made it 13-9 for the Griffins.

"Only in three years, right? It was a very class job by MacEwan to add that (announcement) into the game, especially after a good battle in that third set," said Poplawski. "Just to echo a lot of the stuff I've already said, he's meant a lot to this program. The first time I laid eyes on him, 'I want this guy in the program.' His release, his size, being a lefty was apparent coming. 

"Getting to know him over his career, just his volleyball IQ. When we game-planned stuff, the things we could talk about in our setter meetings, in match and post-match, he's a very, very smart volleyball brain. It's very fun to work with an athlete like that."

The Griffins fought tooth-and-nail with the Heat in Set 4 and again found themselves tied 20-20. But this time it was the Heat who raced home, winning it on a crafty dump shot by setter Zach van Geel.

"We had our eye on this weekend to go get two wins," said Lyndon. "One is better than none, but we're definitely disappointed about the result tonight. It was a fun game to play. I think we wish we had pushed this one at least to five. Anything can happen in that fifth set, so it's a shame."

Nevertheless, getting the win on Friday means the Griffins can go into the off-season with something to build off of.

"No one wants to go O-fer," said Poplawski. "It's hard, it's a long year. It's been a challenging year. Obviously, we would have liked to get the second one tonight, but UBCO played well. I think just to have that little moment yesterday where they can enjoy (a win), especially at home, was nice. It does kind of wrap a bow on what was a tough year. I'm happy they got to experience that."

SPIN SERVES: Alexander Lyndon finished with 18 service aces, tops on MacEwan and only one back of his own single season Canada West record that he shares with Max Vriend ... Lyndon matched his own record for best aces/set average in a CW season, finishing with 0.26, the same as he had in 2022-23.

Mitchel Gorman with head coach Brad Poplawski during the Senior Day celebration (Eduardo Perez photo).

Daniel Hebert with head coach Brad Poplawski during the Senior Day celebration (Eduardo Perez photo).

Alexander Lyndon with head coach Brad Poplawski during the Senior Day celebration (Eduardo Perez photo).