Griffins set new high watermark for wins, as first CW playoff spot seems certain after 3-1 win over Wesmen

Hailey Cornelis passes the ball on Friday. She finished with 18 digs - one of four Griffins in double digits in the category (David Larkins photo).
Hailey Cornelis passes the ball on Friday. She finished with 18 digs - one of four Griffins in double digits in the category (David Larkins photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

-With files from David Larkins, Wesmen Athletics

WINNIPEG – They will have to wait for a math whiz to call it, but the MacEwan Griffins women's volleyball team has all but officially clinched a Canada West playoff spot for the first time in program history.

The coveted X- doesn't yet live next to their name in the standings, but after a 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Wesmen (25-23, 21-25, 25-12, 25-21) on Friday night, MacEwan pushed its record to 13-6 and it only seems a matter of time.

At the very least, they've now established a high watermark for the most wins they've had in a Canada West season, eclipsing the 12-12 record they finished with in 2018-19.

"The experience again is starting to shine through," said head coach Ken Briggs of his veteran-laden lineup. "We'll worry about that stuff (clinching a playoff spot) later because tomorrow they'll come out hungrier. They're playing for their playoff lives."

Winnipeg (8-11) occupies the eighth-and-final playoff spot and are trying to hold off UBC-Okanagan (6-11) and Calgary (6-12). Therein lies the astronomical odds that MacEwan doesn't land a playoff spot. For the Griffins to miss, UBCO would have to win its final five matches without dropping a set - including two against MacEwan - and have the Griffins lose their last five without winning one.

On Friday, both coaches complimented each other's defensive performances. And for good reason. The match featured multiple long rallies kept alive by crazy digs.

Winnipeg's head coach Phil Hudson called MacEwan's 81-dig performance the best he'd seen all season.

"It was challenging when you make a good dig and then we just didn't get a chance to get a great swing in transition, and we'd have to make another dig to have an opportunity," Hudson said. "It was one of the first times a team has out-dug us. They dug very well, and they served well and had us out of system." 

Libero Rachel Jorvina led the Griffins with 26 digs, matching a career-high she set against Brandon last season. Three other Griffins hit double digits in the category.

Briggs, however, was blown away by how well the Wesmen kept the ball off the floor. They produced 73 digs with 21 each from Ashleigh Laube and Madison Fyvie.

"We've played everybody and their defence is incredible," he said. "I think that brought out the best in us, too. Boy, some of those rallies in those first couple sets were great.

"In that first set I thought they were winning those battles. And then your girls start looking at each other thinking 'what do I have to do to put the ball on the floor?' Once that first 10 points was over, you're going 'OK, we have to battle for every single point.' And we haven't had to do that very many weekends. ... I didn't trust a 10-point lead in this. We gave them several four- and five-point runs and that's just because they don't let up."

Carly Weber led three Griffins in double-digit kills with 11. Haley Gilfillan and Lauren Holmes added 10 apiece.

Emma Parker led the Wesmen with a match-high 18 kills.

The teams will meet in the rematch on Saturday (5:45 p.m. MT, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).