Griffins unable to capitalize on late leads in every set as clutch points elude them in 3-1 loss at MRU

Carsten Bergeron played well in the middle for the Griffins on Friday night (Eduardo Perez photo).
Carsten Bergeron played well in the middle for the Griffins on Friday night (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

CALGARY – Despite holding leads past 20 in all four sets, the final clutch points eluded the MacEwan Griffins in a 3-1 loss to the Mount Royal University Cougars on Friday night.

Realistically, they could have swept MRU, such was the level they were executing at, so the squad was understandably disappointed to suffer its ninth loss in a row.

"I feel bad for the guys tonight," said MacEwan head coach Brad Poplawski after the 25-22, 25-22, 25-27, 27-25 loss. "They did absolutely everything necessary to win other than get the 'W'. I was so proud of my team tonight the way they battled and played.

"All that stuff we've been working on, it really showed. Mount Royal has just one absolute stud of a player and that was the difference. I think (Chris) Byam had 62 attempts and 27 kills. He was just a difference maker tonight for them."

Indeed, Byam swung away and the Griffins didn't have enough of an answer for him. Zach Loddell added 16 kills for MRU, while Keal Prince had 45 assists.

Alexei Walisser led MacEwan with 16 kills, 10 digs and three blocks, while Jefferson Morrow chipped in 11 kills, and Alexander Lyndon had 43 assists.

"I though Alexei was really good tonight," said Poplawski. "He passed really well, got a ton of volume for us, had some really timely kills – led us in kills. He was really that P1 we need him to be if we're going to have success this year."

With the result, MRU moves to 5-9 in the standings, while the Griffins fall to 1-13. They still control their own destiny for the final Canada West playoff spot, however, after UFV dropped to 0-14 following a 3-0 loss to Trinity Western.

Figuring out how to close out close sets in their favour would go a long way as they look to finish the 2021-22 campaign off strong.

"I think that's the million dollar question," said Poplawski. "The guys just played so well to get into those positions.

"(It might be) a case of where you want something so badly," he added. "Volleyball's not a sport where you can try harder. Usually when you do that, you start moving and, in our sport,  you have to be stopped on contact to make a play. We're trying to do too much in that 'we need this point' rather than trusting what's got us to that point. We're trying too hard. I know it's coming from a really good place – it comes from guys' desire and care."

The teams will meet again on Saturday (5 p.m., Canada West TV presented by Co-op).

The Griffins have plenty of building blocks in place as they search for a win that would improve their playoff chances.

"Our passing was the best it's been in a while and they have some guys who can really put a lot of velocity on the ball," he said. "So, what that allowed us to do was stay in system a little bit more. I was really proud of the offence that Alex ran. Our numbers were really evenly distributed. It wasn't like we had to rely on one guy. Everyone took turns.

"The fact my two young middles – (Jonah Karsten and Carsten Bergeron) – put up nine and seven kills as first years is just awesome. We set them at some pretty key times and they were able to deliver."