For the first time in a decade, the No.8 University of Alberta Pandas claimed a post-season victory over the Trinity Western University Spartans, earning a straight-sets result (26-24 25-18, 25-12) to take Game 1 of the best-of-three quarter-final series, Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Regular season kill leader Kory White led her the Pandas with 13 kills in Alberta’s first playoff win over Trinity Western since February 16, 2008. Rookie outside hitter Julia Zonneveld added 12 kills as well as 16 digs and three aces while fourth-year middle Shauntelle Hogg recorded six aces, tying for fourth in the Canada West record books for most aces in a single playoff match. Senior setter Eryn Orysiuk netted 28 assists.
Sophomore outside hitter Hilary Howe (Calgary) tallied 12 kills for the Spartans, third-year outside hitter Micaylee Pucilowski (Kelowna, B.C.) also cracking double digits with 10 while third-year setter Brie O’Reilly (Langley, B.C.) put up 26 assists.
The opening set was rife with momentum swings, Trinity Western breaking a close game with an 8-0 streak before the Pandas replied with a 10-2 run to regain the lead. The Spartans, in turn, fired off a 6-1 run to get back ahead once more before each team scored four consecutive points and Alberta executed a 6-1 streak of their own to close out the set.
Zonneveld and White combined for 13 of the Pandas’ 19 kills in the set, White earning her sixth on set point with the Spartans mishandling the tip at the net.
More momentum swings filled the second set, the two squads battling on the scoreboard before a 6-0 run helmed by Zonneveld, the Calgary native starting with her second kill of the set before firing off three straight aces that kept the Pandas up for good.
A long rally highlighted by several Alberta digs ended with more defence as Zonneveld made a solo block at the net before Katelyn Devaney (Port Coquitlam, B.C.), a defensive specialist who made a new conference record with 145 total blocks in the regular season, put an offensive attack just beyond the service line for a commanding 2-0 Panda set lead.
Trinity Western, coming into the weekend with the highest number of aces and aces per set during conference play, were outmatched by Alberta, third-year outside hitter Mary Pless and White pushing the total to nine in the match as part of a dominant 13-3 run before Hogg succeeded four times as part of an eight-point streak, the Pandas poised to snap their decade-long skid with a 21-7 score.
Despite a small late push by the Spartans, Zonneveld put a kill off the block before ending the match with a kill down the line to give Alberta the upper hand in the weekend series.
Trinity Western head coach Ryan Hofer
“It was a tough loss for us tonight. We played really well for the first set and a half, but then we allowed some serve receive challenges to come our way. We are going to have to shore up a few things and get back at it again tomorrow. We going to look at a few things and look to improve for tomorrow and work to push this to game three.”