Griffins again push Spartans for stretches before falling 3-0

Mariah Bereziuk led the Griffins with seven kills and six digs on Saturday (Eduardo Perez photo).
Mariah Bereziuk led the Griffins with seven kills and six digs on Saturday (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jason Hills
For MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON — The MacEwan Griffins proved once again they can compete and battle against the powerful Trinity Western Spartans.

It just comes down to consistency.

The Griffins hung in there against the defending national champions, but fell in straight sets (25-18, 25-11, 25-18) on Saturday night at the David Atkinson gymnasium.

Mariah Bereziuk recorded seven kills and six digs in the loss for the Griffins, while middle Sarah McGee chipped in with five kills, two digs and three blocks.

Meaghan Mealey and Grace McGillvray led the Spartans with eight kills each as the Spartans improved to a perfect 12-0, while MacEwan fell to 2-10 this season.

"The first 15 points of Set 1, if we play like that, we'll be fine. They were in it, they were committed. We just have to figure out what to do after those first 15," said Griffins interim head coach Dusty Freimark.

"I'm not sure if it's confidence, or if it's belief, I'm not sure if the other team pushes and we don't know how to respond. I just don't know."

The Griffins pushed out of the gates hard on Saturday and were with the Spartans punch for punch as both teams were deadlocked at 15-15, but then Trinity Western went on a 6-0 run to break the set open and take the opening set win.

"Trinity is just good. They know how to stick with it. They've had years of winning, and when you have that, it's just that unbreakable belief that they will win," said Freimark.

"We're working towards that, and we haven't strung enough wins together to believe and buy into that."

The Spartans showed why they're the defending national champs in the second set as they dominated the Griffins right from the get-go. 

They jumped out to an 11-2 lead and were on cruise control the rest of the way.

But despite being punched in the mouth in the second set, the Griffins responded the right way, pushing back with another strong set in the third.

They took a 7-6 lead on a nice block from Danielle Jodoin, and extended their lead to 11-8 after a kill from Arden Butler, but once again, the Spartans just wouldn't go away.

They went on a 4-0 run to take a 12-11 lead and then another 6-0 run to take a 18-12 lead, and the Griffins just couldn't recover.

"We always use the term missed opportunity, and even against a team like Trinity, I think we competed, and it was a missed opportunity," said Griffins setter Payton Shimoda, who led the Griffins with 22 assists, and also recorded six digs, one kill and one block.

"Our moments of greatness do match their moments of greatness, it's just that consistency."

The Spartans are one of the best serving teams in Canada, and they gave the Griffins fits with their strong serve, recording 10 aces.

It consistently had the Griffins on their heels, and allowed them to go on those extended offensive runs.

"You have to give credit to them. They were serving well, and we were constantly put in trouble on defence trying to crawl back," said Shimoda.

After such a rough second set, Freimark made a few personnel changes and put Butler and Alyshia Bryks into the rotation in the third set, and the duo stepped up nicely in their limited minutes. Bryks finished with one kill and one ace, while Butler recorded three kills and four digs.

"I'm super proud of the girls that came on (in that third set). It's not easy coming in cold, like they did. Their demeanour and presence was solid, and they played well as a team,' said Freimark.

Despite the back-to-back three set losses against the Spartans, the Griffins can take many positives, as the team heads into the winter break.

Most notably, the team's blocking. They out blocked the Spartans in both games.

"I think there were a lot of positives. This weekend really highlighted our blocking. We blocked really well against the best team in the country," said Shimoda.

"They served tough, and we adapted well, but we have to make those switches faster. If we can do that, we'll be more successful."

The Griffins will now head into the winter break, with their next action on the road against the Manitoba Bisons on Jan. 6.