Story by Marcus Miller, Photos by Joel Belizario (ISN)
December 2, 2012 EDMONTON (ISN) – In a highly entertaining game between two teams heading in opposite directions, the No. 1 ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears faced the Mount Royal University Cougars for the first time in history and came away with a four-set victory (25-18, 24-26, 25-19, 25-21), Friday night at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Mitch Irvine was the catalyst, the fifth-year right-side hitter out of Red Deer, Alta. converting 45% of his hits to post a game-high 23 kills and collecting 11 digs, also a game-high. In support, Jay Olmstead had 18 kills and eight digs, while Tucker Leinweber made his mark with 10 kills and five digs. Rookie Brett Walsh (24 assists) and Jarron Mueller (30 assists), a fifth-year veteran working his way back from an ankle injury, split the Bears’ setting duties to combine for 54 helpers. The victory keeps Alberta, undefeated at 11-0, atop the Canada West standings as they head into the Christmas Break.
Golden Bears Mitch Irvine (#13) and Tucker Leinweber (#2) fail a dig attempt at the Saville Community Sports Centre on Nov 30th, 2012 (Photo: Joel Belizario / Island Sports News).
The Cougars came into the game losers of four straight, but certainly gave the Bears a run for their money. Left-side Colton deMan, who sits third in Canada West with an average of 3.36 kills per set, was the most active of all hitters with 45 attempts, killing 17 balls and collecting six digs in the process. Along with second-year hitter Jordan Parkin (11 kills and three digs), the twosome was a handful for the nation’s best team. Rookie setter Josh Kirkham dished 30 assists, but Mount Royal, now 4-7, descended further down the Canada West standings.
Golden Bears Jay Olmstead (#8) and Matt McCreary (#16) block a spike at the Saville Community Sports Centre on Nov 30th, 2012 (Photo: Joel Belizario / Island Sports News).
In front of a crowd swelling with Edmonton junior high school students, the squads traded points in the early going until an Alberta offensive explosion would decide the set. The Bears knocked off an 11-3 run, thanks to Brett Walsh, who had 15 assists in the frame, and contributions from five different hitters, Alberta going on to a 25-18 win and the 1-0 set lead.
Golden Bear Jarron Mueller sets the ball at the Saville Community Sports Centre on Nov 30th, 2012 (Photo: Joel Belizario / Island Sports News).
The second frame witnessed the closest and most thrilling action of the night, as the Cougars ended the Bears’ impressive streak of 21 consecutive set victories. Eight Alberta errors kept Mount Royal ahead all frame, and despite a late push from Olmstead and Irvine, who combined for 12 kills in the set, the Bears fell 26-24, their first set loss since November 3rd, 2012.
MRU Cougar Jordan Parkin serves the ball at the Saville Community Sports Centre on Nov 30th, 2012 (Photo: Joel Belizario / Island Sports News).
With Jarron Mueller making his first appearance in the game, the Bears returned to their winning ways. The veteran setter registered 16 assists, Irvine continued his impactful performance with seven kills and a remarkable bench-clearing save partway through the frame, Alberta topping the Cougars 25-19 to take a 2-1 lead.
MRU Cougar Colton deMan jumps to spike the ball at the Saville Community Sports Centre on Nov 30th, 2012 (Photo: Joel Belizario / Island Sports News).
With the veteran trio of Irvine, Olmstead, and Mueller reunited for a full set, Alberta would have little trouble sending Mount Royal to their fifth-straight loss. Olmstead added another four kills, Mueller notched another 14 assists, and Irvine fittingly capped a 25-19 set win and the 3-1 Bears victory.