Thompson Rivers University WolfPack history was made on this night. For the first time ever, a TRU women’s volleyball team has won a Canada West playoff series.
The WolfPack swept the home town MacEwan University Griffins in two straight games in their best of three first round playoff series. After beating the Griffins 3-1 on Thursday night (Feb 20), the WolfPack jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and battled back to take MacEwan 3-2 in a thrilling match at the David Atkinson gym.
The scores were 25-13,25-21,22-25,25-18,15-8. The WolfPack now advance to play the winner of the Trinity Western Spartans/Winnipeg Wesmen quarterfinal series next week.
The WolfPack were led offensively by Kendra Finch (5th year, outside hitter, North Vancouver, B)C with 12 kills and 18 digs. Olga Savenchuk (2nd year, outside hitter, Donetsk, Ukraine) had 11 kills, two service aces, four assists and 17 digs. Kseniya Kocyigit (1st year, middle, Byaroza, Belarus) had 10 kills and seven blocks while Anastasiia Muzyka (3rd year, setter, Poltawa, Ukraine) had 34 assists and seven blocks.
MacEwan’s main offensive weapons were: Hailey Cornelis (5th year, outside hitter, Legal, AB) with 10 kills,, 12 digs, five blocks, and two service aces. Carly Weber (4th year, outside hitter, Toronto, ON) had nine kills while McKenna Stevenson (5th year, middle, Spruce Grove, AB) added eight kills and 11 blocks. Kylie Schubert (3rd year, setter, Edmonton, AB) had 21 assists and 14 digs. Rachel Jorvina (4th year, libero, Edmonton, AB) had 15 digs.
The WolfPack came out and dominated the Griffins in the first set. They led 10-4 at one point and had a ten point advantage (16-6) going into the technical time out. Finch had four kills and five digs for the Pack in the first set. Savenchuk had three kills while Muzyka had 9 assists. Stevenson led McEwan in that opening set with three kills and two blocks. Schubert had five assists.
MacEwan rebounded in the second set and were up 16-14 at the tech time out. The WolfPack went on a bit of a scoring run which forced the Griffins to call a time out down 20-17. That seemed to spur on MacEwan as they tied it up at 21 at one point. The WolfPack did a great job of shutting down the Griffins middle attack in the first two sets as they were operating at a minus per cent efficiency.
In the third set, it was the Pack ahead 16-15 at the tech time out.
The fourth set saw TRU jump out to an early lead but MacEwan came back and took an 8-6 advantage forcing head coach Chad Grimm to call a time out. The Griffins led twice by 10 in the set en route to the victory as Cornelis had three kills for them in the set, Stevenson added two.
In the fifth set, the Pack went on a 6-0 run and led 8-2 when the teams switched sizes. With MacEwan’s top server, Haley Gillfillan on a roll, the Pack called a time out leading 11-5. It worked as the Pack got the remaining points they needed winning on a service error by Cornelis.
COACH GRIMM SAYS:
I thought we started extremely well. We were aggressive and controlled the play. I didn’t think we overthought things In the second set, we got behind and showed some maturity pushing through. I thought we potentially started thinking about the end and the implications of what that might be. MacEwan started picking up steam. Defensively they were unbelievable at some points. They played free, hit some bombs from the service line and put us under a lot of pressure. We wound up in a fifth set where I thought the girls let loose and played, enjoyed the moment a bit more and obviously got the result we were looking for.
On wild runs in the game on both sides (11-1 for TRU in second set and 17-3 for MacEwan in fourth set):
“It’s a sport of momentum, but I think you saw two teams – one that’s in the playoffs for the first time and we’ve been there, but this is the first time we’ve won a playoff series, so that starts to weigh on your mind. As much as you don’t want it to creep in, I think it’s hard for them until they’ve been through it. In that sense, there wasn’t a surprise there were lots of runs. We knew they were going to come back. Obviously, the first set we started off like lightning, then the second set we made a good run to close it out. Then they came back storming. We couldn’t get a ball to hit the ground. They’re tough, they’ve played resilient all year. Ken’s done a great job with this crew getting them to where they were. It was definitely a battle.”
On what the first series win means for the program …
“I think it’s big for the program. Until people have been through that, it’s all talk and hearsay on the court and you need to feel what it’s like to be there. I think that experience is obviously good. We have been to playoffs four out of the last five years, so the girls have felt that. They’ve never had the feeling of being so close to closing out a series. Hopefully that makes it a little bit easier next time.”
On being resilient to stop MacEwan’s pushback (two straight set wins) and win in Set 5:
“I think we have some good veteran leadership. I think we’re pretty patient. Even though they went on a 17-3 run, I think we know we can always keep ourselves in the game. If we play our game we have a chance to win. Obviously, sometimes it gets away from you, but I think we’re always pretty sure we can bring it back. That helps and you don’t start to panic too much.”