Thunderbirds top Canada West table with two wins against MacEwan

Men’s volleyball once again proved they’re the team to beat in Canada West over the weekend, defeating the MacEwan Griffins on Friday and Saturday to take a commanding 9-1 lead atop the league standings, tied with Trinity Western University.

Friday night’s game was a standard showing for the T-Birds, as they took down the Griffins in straight sets. The win is their third straight set victory of the season.

Saturday’s match up was similarly dominating, as the ’Birds put up a clean four-set game. Though they lost the first set, the ‘Birds quickly regrouped and fought back with a three-set streak.

Unlike the previous match up on Friday, the match on Saturday was more challenging for the T-Birds as the Griffins started their opening frame with efficient attacks. With Max Vriend’s four kills and Jonathan Mohler’s 11 assists, the visitors successfully broke the tie at 15-15 and took the first set with a three-point margin.

The ’Birds quickly turned it around though, fighting back hard in the second set. They were able to widen the gap to an 11-point lead at 17-6, and later on at 20-9. The Griffins tried to decrease the deficit, but their attempt was soon stopped by the T-Birds with a three-point run. UBC finally finished the set with a 12-point margin at 25-13.

T-Birds Byron Keturakis and Fynn McCarthy jump to block a Griffins spike.
T-Birds Byron Keturakis and Fynn McCarthy jump to block a Griffins spike. Elizabeth Wang

The Griffins were able to close the gap a little more in the third set. Although the T-Birds took a a five-point advantage at the beginning of the frame, the Griffins were able to tie it up at 15-15. However, the ’Birds quickly broke the tie with three consecutive points powered by Byron Keturakis’ two assists and a service ace from Keith West. UBC then maintained control of the court and closed out the set at 25-18.

The team continued dominating the court in the fourth, coasting to their second win of the weekend. Irvan Brar showed his strength as the top scorer of the team by throwing down three kills and a service ace in a row and pushed the scoring gap to 8-3. The 'Birds then held a strong defensive line and prevented the Griffins from coming back. As the opponents' momentum started to decline, UBC rookie Fynn McCarthy took advantage of the lapse in concentration and ended the game with a clinching ace, closing out the set at 25-19.

“They played a lot better tonight than they did last night,” said UBC head coach Kerry MacDonald post-game about their opponents. “Especially in the first set, they’ve played very good volleyball, and made us really earn it — we had to play a lot better to win tonight.”

Going forward through the sets, MacDonald was pleased with the overall performance of the team as they quickly adjusted their attitude and fought back.

“I'm really happy with how we responded, it speaks to the character of our group,” he said. “We're a resilient group and we like being challenged and we respond well to challenges.”

Next week, the 'Birds face the Mount Royal Cougars at Kenyon Court in Calgary, Alberta on Friday at 5 p.m.