EDMONTON – With a few teams chasing them, the No.8 University of Alberta Pandas stayed ahead in the conference standings with a four-set win (25-15, 21-25, 25-16, 25-18) over the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Team kill leader Kory White recorded a game-high 13 kills while fourth-year middle Shauntelle Hogg added 11 and two aces. Sophomore outside hitter Erin Corbett recorded a game-high five aces while senior setter Eryn Orysiuk netted 41 assists.
Sophomore outside hitter Emily Koshinsky put up eight kills and 11 digs for the Huskies, fourth-year outside hitter Regan Wiebe tallying seven kills and three aces as senior setter Mackenzie Pek notched 24 assists.
With the victory, the Pandas improve to 10-9 to remain in sixth in Canada West, Manitoba and Brandon both winning on Friday evening to earn identical 9-10 records. The loss drops Saskatchewan to 9-12 and currently out of a playoff spot.
The Pandas, who haven't missed the post-season since 2000-01, came out strong in the first set, opening with a 4-0 lead. The Huskies responded with a quick momentum swing of their own but a Hogg kill shifted momentum yet again, five straight points putting the home team up by a 10-4 score.
The two squads went point-for-point for most of the remainder of the set, Alberta pulling away with six straight points to finish things off, third-year outside hitter Taylor Annala ending a long rally by sending her attack long and giving the Pandas the 1-0 set lead.
An early 7-1 run gave control to the home team in the second set, but Saskatchewan scored six straight points to retake the lead, expanding the momentum swing to a 10-2 run.
A late 9-4 run allowed Alberta to climb back within three points at 24-21, but Corbett's serve went long to tie the set score at one.
Point swings peppered the third set, but an 8-1 run by Alberta seemed to be the difference maker to make it 16-9 for the home team. The Pandas also netted six aces in the set, the first three coming from Corbett during the crucial run before Orysiuk added two late and fourth-year middle Jess Stroud finished off the set with an ace off Jenelle Sokoloski, the senior outside hitter mishandling the serve and sending it backwards for a 2-1 Alberta set lead.
The Pandas broke a 6-6 deadlock on the scoreboard with a 7-2 run to pull away in the final set, five consecutive points building the lead to as high as eight for a commanding 20-12 score.
Saskatchewan responded with four straight points on offence, but then gave up two on Koshinsky attack errors, Hogg ending the match by tipping a kill over the block and finding empty space in center court.
Game two of the weekend series goes Saturday, game time starting at approximately 6:30 p.m. MT.