Late to the party, Griffins give Golden Bears a push in marathon third set before falling 3-0

Jefferson Morrow digs a ball against Mount Royal last weekend. He had six kills to lead the Griffins against Alberta on Friday (Robert Antoniuk photo).
Jefferson Morrow digs a ball against Mount Royal last weekend. He had six kills to lead the Griffins against Alberta on Friday (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

-With files from Alberta Athletics

EDMONTON – Similar to the women's match before them, the MacEwan Griffins men's volleyball team also took Alberta to a marathon third set before falling on Friday night.

Starting slowly, it took a while for them to get up to speed against the No. 3 team in U SPORTS as the official scoreline reads: 25-14, 25-18, 31-29.

"We don't really like losing, but we were so bad in the first set and got beat so thoroughly that I'm proud of our response," said MacEwan head coach Brad Poplawski. "I thought we started to battle a little bit towards the end of that first set and into the second. We carried that into the third a little bit.

"The easy thing would have been to pack it in, but the guys didn't. They started to work and at least push the Bears a little bit."

Just like the women's match earlier in the night, the third set was incredibly tight for the men as well. Neither team held a lead of more than two points at any time in the third.

MacEwan was unsuccessful on their three set points, before the Bears ended the match on their second set point, taking it 31-29.

Both Jefferson Morrow and Alexei Walisser had six kills each for the Griffins, while rookie setter Mason Natras produced 20 assists in his first Canada West start after he was thrown into the fire due to an injury to starter Alexander Lyndon.

"Alex Lyndon went down with an injury yesterday with 20 minutes left in practice, so he couldn't play," said Poplawski. "Mason Natras had his first U SPORTS start against a pretty good team in a tough gym.

"For a first-year guy being thrown into that situation is not the easiest thing. I was proud of him."

With the result, the Griffins fall to 1-6, while Alberta is now 7-0.

The biggest takeaway out of the evening for the Griffins is starting to play their game earlier. Their slow start ultimately cost them a chance to push the Golden Bears.

"I just hope that belief is there," said Poplawski of the third set when they went toe to toe with one of the top teams in the country. "The way we need to play to be successful is different than them. We have to play our system and we have to have our identity. I thought in the fifth set, we did a bit more of that. We got a few really good digs from Dan (Hebert – who finished with 10in the match), we served a little tougher, we limited our unforced errors and we stayed in system a little bit more. That enabled our offence to get going a little bit.

"We have to do a better job limiting them, which is obviously easier said than done. They're serving bombs and their offence is pretty unbelievable. But hopefully we can get to our style a little bit sooner."

The rematch goes on Saturday (5 p.m., Saville Centre, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).