Bergeron posts best game by a Griffins middle in three years, but squad falls 3-1 to Cougars

Carsten Bergeron had 13 kills to pace the Griffins against MRU on Saturday (Robert Antoniuk photo).
Carsten Bergeron had 13 kills to pace the Griffins against MRU on Saturday (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

CALGARY – You have to go back three years to the last time Max Vriend was playing middle for the Griffins men's volleyball team to find a game as dominant at that position as the one Carsten Bergeron had on Saturday night.

The rookie recorded 13 kills to pace the Griffins in a 3-1 loss to the Mount Royal University Cougars. And his .500 hitting percentage broke the program's rookie single game record for the category. He also added four blocks.

"Carsten Bergeron in the middle was a beast," said head coach Brad Poplawski. "I honestly don't remember the last time we had a middle in double digit kills in a match (Vriend on Feb. 15, 2019). "We kept giving him the ball and he kept finding different ways to score.

"For a young guy to carry that much offence was really awesome to see. I'm just proud of his progress throughout the year, how far him and Jonah (Karsten), our other young middle, have come. It just bodes really well for them and the program that we have guys like that we can set consistently and they can put them away and be counted on to score."

The result didn't go in their favour with the Cougars recording a 25-21, 22-25, 26-24, 25-20 triumph to complete a weekend sweep of the Griffins. MRU is now 7-9 in the Canada West standings, while MacEwan falls to 1-15.

"We weren't as crisp tonight," said Poplawski. "They went with  bit of a different lineup. We didn't have quite as much going for us today, but I give the guys a lot of credit. We battled right to the end."

Although it was the same result as Friday (3-1), the game was different. MacEwan led past 20 in every set in Friday's loss, but they were chasing in all of them on Saturday.

"The endings were kind of the same," said Poplawski. "We just couldn't find a way to put the ball down at the end of sets. Yesterday we were kind of the front-runners in the 20s. Today we were down and clawed our way back at the end."

MRU's star outside hitter Chris Byam didn't play a night after crushing the Griffins with 26 kills.

"Obviously, Byam carries a lot of the offensive load for them," said Poplawski. "I thought with him not on the floor, they ran a pretty balanced attack."

Jacob Van Geel led the Cougars with 20 kills, while Joao Pedro Freire had 11 and Zach Lobdell chipped in 10. Jackson Brennan had 52 assists.

Besides Bergeron's big game for MacEwan, Jefferson Morrow had 11 kills and Alexei Walisser posted 10.

"I just want to give my guys credit," said Poplawski. "It's been a really tough year in the sense you play the same teams, the guys are in online classes. We're not allowed to meet, so we're putting a lot more on their plate in terms of video and preparation.

"We're asking a lot of these athletes and my guys have never stopped working for me and doing all these extra things. I just want to acknowledge that.

"As a coach, it's something to hang your hat on that they're doing these things and finding ways to prepare properly and be ready to play at the top level."

The Griffins will finish the regular season at home next weekend when they host the Calgary Dinos.