Griffins have positives to take out of 3-1 loss to nationally-ranked Dinos

Alexei Walisser elevates for a smash against the Dinos on Saturday. He led the Griffins with 14 kills and eight digs (Eduardo Perez photo).
Alexei Walisser elevates for a smash against the Dinos on Saturday. He led the Griffins with 14 kills and eight digs (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jason Hills
For MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON — The MacEwan men's volleyball team went toe-to-toe with the nationally-ranked Calgary Dinos, but just couldn't land that big knockout punch.

After a disappointing outing on Friday, the Griffins responded with a strong effort, but fell in four sets (19-25, 22-25, 26-24, 25-12) Saturday night at David Atkinson Gym.

Fourth-year outside hitter Alexei Walisser led the Griffins with 14 kills and eight digs, while fourth-year outside hitter Ethan Nashim chipped in with 11 kills and six digs in the loss.

Fifth-year outside hitter Hamish Hazelden led the Dinos with 15 kills as the Dinos improved to 8-4, while MacEwan fell to 1-11 in Canada West play.

"I think we show in glimpses how good we can be, but we just have to find a way to bear down and play a complete game," said Walisser.

"That's what it comes down to at the end of the day. These teams are just too good to play one good set. You need to be on for the entirety of the game, or these teams will just bury you. That's the reality of it."

After a slow start in the opening set, the Griffins allowed the Dinos to take control of the set early on and roll to a 25-19 set win, but MacEwan really pushed hard in the second and third sets.

The Griffins and Dinos were in a very tight battle in the second set, as neither team was able to go on a big run.

MacEwan closed the gap to 15-13 after a kill from Walisser as MacEwan continued to press and take their first lead of the set, but the Dinos stayed composed to close out the set 25-22.

"That's been one of our biggest problems this year is closing out sets. We let teams get on a ride and we fall behind early and we have to fight and claw our way back," said Nashim.

"Tonight, I thought we did a better job of staying in the fight, we just have to find a way to finish stronger."

Calgary had a 14-9 lead in the third set, but the Griffins rallied to take a 16-15 lead after a powerful ace from Jefferson Morrow.

"We put them under a lot more pressure and our serves were on. They have middles, who are insanely efficient, so service pressure really helped us," said Walisser.

"We served aggressively and consistently, and when we did that we had success."

But, after the Dinos took a 20-18 lead, the lights went out in the gymnasium, forcing a three minute delay, and the Griffins used that moment to rally a big comeback.

They took a 23-22 lead, and held on for the 26-24 set win.

"We were down 15-11, and I don't think we've come back this year in a set and won," said Nashim.

"We took that moment when the lights went out, it kind of brought the seriousness down a little bit and the boys loosened up a little bit. We just tried to relax and refocus.

"That's something that we really focused on in practice this week, was to finish sets strong and to win the set the way we did, that's something we can build on the rest of the year."

Calgary showed why they're one of the top-ranked teams in the country as they ripped away all the momentum MacEwan got with their third set win. They didn't give the Griffins any chance to build anything in Set 4, taking it 25-12.

"This team doesn't mess up a whole lot. They're fluent and they've played together for a long time and they have so much experience," said Nashim.

"We didn't pressure them enough in that fourth set and our mistakes compounded.

"We've been hard on ourselves this year when we've made lots of mistakes, but there's a lot we can take away from this game and build off of it."