By Paul Cartledge
EDMONTON - In their third-straight top 10 matchup, the No.2 University of Alberta Golden Bears recorded a solid team effort against the No.8 University of Saskatchewan Huskies, earning a straight-sets victory (25-16, 25-23, 25-15) at home, Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
All six Alberta starters spun at least five kills each, fourth-years Ryan Nickifor and Taylor Arnett, as well as sophomore left side Alex McMullin, netting eight kills apiece. Fourth-year setter Brett Walsh added 35 assists while libero Reed May put up a game-high 13 digs.
Alberta had their relatively worst performance in the first set, attacking at only 33% but balancing it with solid defence with 3.5 blocks, highlighted by the solo work of Walsh and McMullin as part of a 7-0 run midway through the opening set to push the lead to a commanding 18-6.
A late charge by the Huskies tried to extend the proceedings yet with all cylinders firing on the second-most efficient offence in the country, the Bears ended the first set and looked poised to end the night early.
An ambitious attack led to errors in the second, however, giving Saskatchewan a 6-2 lead before the Alberta offence refocused and took charge with a multipronged arsenal, followed by a wave of defence in the form of several team blocks that broke multiple ties with a feisty Huskie squad, including the final one at 22-22 before Arnett put the set's final kill off the hands of libero Matthew Erickson.
Unfortunately for the visitors, the final set was a tale of two different teams, Saskatchewan spinning eight kills and attacking at just under a 5% clip whereas the two-time defending CIS champion Bears put up 15 as well as a blistering 68%, executing with precision, except for at the service line, with fresh face Carter McIntyre scoring his very first kill with the Evergreen and Gold to extend the team's winning streak to five games.
The 5-0 Bears and 4-3 Huskies play the second game of their weekend series on Saturday at Saville Community Sports Centre, game time at 5:00 p.m. MT.