Unable to find an answer for Devaney, Griffins suffer 3-1 defeat to Spartans

MacEwan setter Claire McLoughlin looks for a hitter during Saturday's match against Trinity Western (Chris Piggott photo).
MacEwan setter Claire McLoughlin looks for a hitter during Saturday's match against Trinity Western (Chris Piggott photo).

Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Katelyn Devaney just seemed to be everywhere.

Blocking, serving and killing the MacEwan Griffins all night, the dominant 6-foot-1 fifth-year middle led the Trinity Western Spartans to their eighth-straight win – a 3-1 triumph (25-14, 25-22, 24-26, 25-15) on Saturday at the David Atkinson Gym.

As omnipresent as she was on the court, finishing with 13 blocks, 13 kills on a .423 percentage, three service aces and six digs, it wouldn't be surprising if she's in the Griffins' nightmares later.

 "Katie's just a nice player," said Spartans head coach Ryan Hofer. "She's been working hard. She's a fifth-year player that we rely heavily on. If we can pass well enough, we like to deliver it where we can with her.

"This was a really nice game for Katie. She served, blocked and attacked really well for us."

Hilary Howe also factored big for the Spartans with 14 kills and five blocks, while Avery Heppell (eight blocks) and Brie O'Reilly (38 assists and three aces) helped seal the win.

"Their two best players had a much better night – didn't make errors and scored when they needed to," said MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs. "I thought as the game went on, we picked it up. We were in the right spots, etc., but they're too good. When you give them the opportunity to score, they're going to score."

TWU completely dominated the opening set as they cruised into the technical timeout up 16-5. As the Griffins had no answer early for Devaney – she hit at .714 efficiency in the opening set – it was fitting that her ace put it away.

Similar to Friday when a late first-set run gave the Griffins some momentum heading into Set 2, MacEwan used a late 5-1 run to play well early in the second set. They went on a serving run with Gilfillan to take a 10-7 lead. But eventually, the Spartans took total control, going on a 16-5 trot to gain a 23-15 stranglehold, finally putting away a determined Griffins side when Ashtyn McKenzie blocked Cassidy Kinsella on the left side.

"It's always something every night, but our serve-receive let us down tonight," said Briggs, whose team, as a result, gave up a monster 21.0 team blocks. "They went on some huge runs. We did have a couple against them. But it's to start games. You get behind and it's an uphill battle the whole time.

"I was a little disappointed in our serve-receive. Not to take anything away. They've got two really good servers and they went on runs when they needed to."

However, just when it appeared the Spartans would roll to a lopsided sweep, MacEwan landed a little uppercut, taking Set 3 26-24, invigorated by Lauren Holmes, who subbed in, went on a serving run and then finished it off with a big kill from the left.

"Lo came in and played really, really well coming in partway through," said MacEwan head coach Ken Briggs. "She had a great game – serving, defending, blocked really well and had some key kills at key times."

Zoe Cronin, who subbed in late to serve, helped the Griffins rally from 22-18 down to score an unlikely comeback win in the set.

"That third set, that was the Grant MacEwan team that we kind of knew was there," said Hofer. "They came to play. No. 10 came in and did a really nice job serving for them – put us into trouble. They took that from us."

But it was just a small blip on radar for the nationally-ranked Spartans, who got right back to dominating in the middle, jumping out to a big lead in Set 4 and closing out the match comfortably off McKenzie's kill.

A sweep over MacEwan to get to 9-3 is a nice way for the Spartans to go into the semester break. They will next play Jan. 5 vs. Winnipeg.

"We started off – not slow – but we were adjusting to things in the beginning," said Hofer. "We've been on a nice little run here. But the girls have been working very hard for it. I give them full credit for everything out there."

MacEwan was led by Kinsella's 10 kills, two aces and eight digs, while Haley Gilfillan had five kills, seven blocks and two aces.

With the loss, they fall to 0-12 on the campaign and will have to wait until Jan. 12 at Saskatchewan to try for their first win of the Canada West season.