EDMONTON – With a sweep of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies on Saturday night at Saville Community Sports Centre, the No.3 University of Alberta Golden Bears extend their win streak to double digits with a four-set victory (25-16-, 20-25, 25-21, 25-22), but more importantly, clinch home-court advantage in the quarterfinal round of the post-season.
Fourth-year left side Alex McMullin led the Golden Bears on the stat sheet, netting a team-high 14 kills and eight digs, adding a block solo to also earn a team-high of 15.0 points. Sophomore outside hitter Taryq Sani tallied a dozen kills while third-year outside hitter Carter McIntyre notched 10, fourth-year setter Luke Brisbane recording 40 assists.
Team kill leader Dylan Mortensen scored 19 in a losing effort, adding two solo blocks and two aces, but also four service errors, a difficulty that plagued most of the lineup on the night. Senior setter CJ Gavlas recorded 36 assists, two aces, and five service errors.
The win improves Alberta's record to 17-3, allowing them to host a quarterfinal series in the first round of the playoffs on the February 22-25 weekend. Saskatchewan, on the other hand, drops to 9-13, leaving them in seventh place in the Canada West standings but at risk of dropping lower as they take the "bye" next weekend, the top eight teams in the conference qualifying for the post-season.
Early in the opening set, an 8-3 Alberta run broke a 5-5 deadlock to put the Bears ahead. Recording a total of 6.0 blocks and a stellar 55% attack percentage, made even more impressive with zero attack errors, Alberta was up by 11 late in the set before a seventh kill by Mortensen preceded the two Gavlas aces but his next serve made its way to McMullin, who ended the set with a quick strike for the 1-0 set lead.
The squads switched fortunes in the second set, however, Saskatchewan piling on the blocks and attacking at a 43% clip while the Bears had a rare set with a negative percentage, making 10 errors to overwhelm six kills on 22 attacks. Though the Huskies continued to struggle at the service line with eight mistakes, Mortensen went cross court for his fifth kill of the set, tying up the set score.
The service errors continued to hinder the visitors in the third set, Saskatchewan racking up six more to keep Alberta in the game, the Bears behind the road team for most of the set but the second-last Huskie service error started a 6-1 run for Alberta to claim their first lead of the set.
McMullin, who scored the final kill for the Bears in the previous two sets, kept his streak alive by putting one through the Saskatchewan block and finding center court, leading to a 2-1 set lead.
The final set was a combination of point swings and point-for-point action, featuring 14 tie scores and six lead changes, but McMullin came to the forefront one more time, earning the Bears a 23-22 lead on his fourth kill of the set, adding a solo block on a Mortensen attack before senior middle Arran Chambers repeated McMullin's defensive strategy to end the match.
The Bears head to Winnipeg next weekend to face off against the Wesmen before closing out the regular season back at home versus the Brandon Bobcats. The Huskies will take next weekend off before finishing on the road in Vancouver, squaring off against the UBC Thunderbirds.