Griffins come out swinging in Game 2, losing a tight one in minuscule margins as UFV moves on

Arden Butler co-led the Griffins with 10 kills and broke the program record for attacking efficiency in a CW playoff match (min. 20 attempts) in Game 2 against UFV (Jordie Arthur photo).
Arden Butler co-led the Griffins with 10 kills and broke the program record for attacking efficiency in a CW playoff match (min. 20 attempts) in Game 2 against UFV (Jordie Arthur photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Nearly everything they did was better: the Griffins women's volleyball team outpaced UFV on attacking efficiency, out-blocked them at the net, had their passing game going, served tough and still …

The result wound up being the same.

That's volleyball sometimes as MacEwan lost 3-1 (25-20, 26-24, 13-25, 25-21)  – the same score as a night earlier – and were eliminated 2-0 by the UFV Cascades in their Canada West quarter-final series.

"Like I said at the very beginning of the year, margins are small," said Chris Wandler, head coach of the sixth-seeded Griffins, who were trying to knock off No. 3. "There were one or two rotations that we needed to side out a little faster at. That didn't happen. That was the first set. Then we had one or two swings to win the second and that didn't go for us. So, there you go. Just really, really tight. 

"We played much better tonight. First contact-wise, we stuck to our game plan, we didn't waver, we played with a little bit more urgency. I'm quite proud of our effort tonight, for sure."

UFV moves on to face Manitoba in a semifinal series next weekend with UBC and Alberta meeting in the other one.

MacEwan's season comes to an end, but not before they went out with an impressive final effort. The Griffins attacked at .263 (to UFV's .200), recorded five blocks and 10 assists (to UFV's one and eight) and managed eight service aces.

"I'm not happy that we lost, but I'm happy with our performance, for sure," said Wandler.

MacEwan attack was as spread around as it's been all season. Alyshia Bryks led them with 10 kills, three aces (matching the program playoff record) and 15 digs, while middle Kara Frith had arguably her best game as a Griffin with nine kills on a .533 hitting percentage, two aces, four digs and five blocks. Both accounted for 13.5 points.

"Kara had a heck of a match tonight," said Wandler. "They couldn't stop her. We passed the ball better and Payton (Shimoda) found her a lot more. She got some good touches on some balls. Alyshia had a really good match. I thought, Arden (Butler) pulled up her socks and chipped in a little bit more. It just didn't put so much stress on Mariah (Bereziuk), so that was a great accomplishment on everybody's part."

Kara Frith had a huge game in the middle for the Griffins with nine kills on a .533 percentage, adding two aces, four digs and five blocks (Jordie Arthur photo).

Butler also had 10 kills and broke the program record for the best hitting percentage by a Griffin with a minimum 20 attempts in a CW playoff match (.273). Bereziuk had eight kills, 13 digs and four blocks as both accounted for 10.5 points. Shimoda recorded 34 assists and Sarah McGee accounted for 11.0 points with five kills, two aces, seven digs and five blocks.

"I'm extremely proud," said Wandler. "From where they were at the very beginning to what they've become, I'm extremely proud of everything – not just the volleyball but the type of people this group is. They're just great human beings and I'm proud to be part of it."

MacEwan was without star libero Bronwyn Ettinger for a second-straight night due to illness and their roster being locked with their Game 1 lineup for the series.

Bereziuk finishes her Griffins' run with 27 career playoff kills, which surpasses previous program leader Hailey Cornelis who had 22. Both she and McGee played the final match of their careers.

"Stellar humans and really good teammates," said Wandler. "It's going to be hard to say goodbye to them. They've left their mark – an impression on each and every one of those girls who are going to be returning. 

"Their investment's going to show for years to come. I'm very proud of Mariah and Sarah."

UFV put a ton of service pressure on the Griffins in the opening set on Saturday, went on a run out of a 9-9 tie and never looked back, ending it on Gabrielle Attieh's kill off the block.

The second set was also tied 9-9 and 12-12 before UFV reached 20 first on Lauren Attieh's ace, but the Griffins fought back on a 5-0 run to take a 23-22 lead and had a swing to end it up 24-23, but Bereziuk went wide. UFV took the next two points, too, on Griffins attacking errors to win it and go up 2-0 in the match.

But that didn't deter the Griffins, who played one of their best sets of the season in No. 3, racing out to an 11-2 lead, putting UFV out of system the whole way and cruising to a comfortable win, ending it when Butler's kill went off the block and out the back.

UFV reset and regained their footing in the fourth set, though. With the set tied 7-7, the Cascades went on a 3-0 run with Lauren Attieh at the service line and never let the Griffins get closer the rest of the way. The Cascades ended it on their third match point attempt when McGee's serve went into the net for MacEwan's 14th service error of the evening.

Both Lauren Attieh and Gabrielle Attieh had 10 kills to pace the Cascades.

All in all, there are many lessons to be gleaned by the Griffins players who will be returning as they try to take the next step in 2024-25.

"You want to win it, but you're taking the positives out of it," said Wandler. "The experience of making it to the playoffs and playing in a match like this – it just can't be understated how important it is to experience this. If we want to get to that next step, you have to go through that whole process of getting here and battling. It's nothing like anything else. 

"The match that everybody played here tonight who's going to be coming back, we're going to remember it and we're going to invest in it, for sure."