by Mark Janzen
February 21, 2014, LANGLEY, British Columbia (ISN) – The No. 3 Alberta men’s volleyball team advanced to the Canada West gold medal match with a 3-0 (25-17, 26-24, 25-17) win in the conference semifinals Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
The win also earns Alberta one of two Canada West berths into the CIS national championship in Calgary Feb. 27-Mar. 1.
After the Bears rallied from a seven-point deficit at 12-5 in the second set to win 26-24, the Bears put together an error-free third set, hitting .500 as a team, as they duplicated the first set by pulling away for an eight-point win.
Other than a sluggish start to the second set, the Bears were the better team throughout the contest, hitting .360 as a team, compared to TRU’s .207 and out-blocking the WolfPack 7-2.
Alberta will now play in the Canada West gold medal match against the winner of the second semifinal between No. 2 Trinity Western and No. 10 Brandon. Saturday’s championship match is at 7 p.m. at the LEC. The WolfPack will play for bronze Saturday at 5 p.m. against the loser of the matchup between the Spartans and the Bobcats.
The Bears were led by Ryley Barnes, who had 11 kills while Jay Olmstead and Kevin Proudfoot had eight kills each. Setter Brett Walsh had a match-high four blocks to go with 31 assists. Matt McCreary had a match-high four aces.
Thompson Rivers Brad Gunter, who was named Canada West MVP earlier in the day, led the WolfPack with 16 kills, 14 digs and two aces. Jacob Tricarico added four kills and three blocks while Philip Ozari added five kills. Setter Colin Carson had 26 assists and five digs.
“The last two weekends we’ve won games after being down in the second set and tonight I thought again we showed some character,” said Alberta coach Terry Danyluk. “Thompson Rivers fights. They make a lot of switches, so you u have to adapt to all the changes they make.
“We’ve been up and down and sideways all year. We’ve had some injuries and we’ve had to make some changes. So it’s fantastic to get to this point. And for me it’s really nice to see that even those guys who aren’t starting are coming off the bench and contributing, like Jarron Mueller, who has served us some big points in the last few weeks.”
The Bears raced out to a quick 9-6 lead in the opening set and never trailed. The WolfPack kept the game within three through the middle stages but, with Alberta up 17-14, the Bears tallied four straight points, including a vicious Barnes kill to take a commanding 21-14 lead. Hitting .290 as a team in the set compared to TRU, which hit .069, the Bears cruised to an eight-point win, taking the set after a Gunter attack error.
The WolfPack turned the tides in the second set and opened a 12-5 advantage. But the Bears didn’t go away. A McCreary kill followed by a McCreary ace got Alberta to within three at 13-10 and the Bears kept coming. And after an Olmstead kill, the Bears tied it 18-18.
After trading points to 20-20, the Bears went on a 4-1 run and had a chance at game point at 24-21. TRU fought back to tie it 24-24 but a pair of points from the Bears, capped by a block on Gunter, gave Alberta the set.
The third set was a tight battle from the outset. The WolfPack took a 13-11 lead after an Ozari kill but Alberta responded with four straight points to take a 14-13 edge. However, at 14-14, the Bears started to roll. Three straight points, capped by a Proudfoot ace gave Alberta a 17-14 lead. Then, at 22-17, Alberta tallied three straight points again to earn the 25-17 win and take the match in the minimum. Alberta’s John Goranson earned his seventh kill of the night, blasting his attack off the TRU block and out to give the Bears the win.
“We knew to be successful, we had to be on top of the serve and pass game,” said TRU coach Pat Hennelly. “But Alberta won that battle quite convincingly. It makes for a long night when we need to run all over the court. They’re a good team and their blocking showed up all year as a vital stat for them and it was good tonight.
“I thought Brad Gunter did a good job with the balls he had but we never really got our feet under us. We never seemed like we were comfortable or in our stride.”
Game Notes: Alberta had a 6-4 edge in aces…the last time Alberta played in the Canada West Final Four at TWU, the Bears, after losing to Manitoba in the semifinals, earned a bronze medal with a 3-1 win over Calgary…the last time TRU played a playoff match at the LEC was in 2010-11 when it lost in back-to-back game in the Canada West quarter-finals.