Golden Bears volleyball
EDMONTON — The No.5 University of Alberta Golden Bears searched long and hard for some killer instinct against their archrival No.10 University of Calgary Dinos on Saturday night and for the first two sets, it was nowhere to be found.
But then a switch was flipped and the Golden Bears served up an epic five-set comeback victory (23-25, 24-26, 25-22, 27-25, 15-9) at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Sophomore outside hitter Braedon Friesen led Alberta with 23 kills, while junior outside hitter Jackson Kennedy added 11 kills and seven digs.
Setter Max Elgert had 57 assists and chipped in with 10 digs in the Golden Bears win, while senior outside hitter Mac McNicol led the Dinos with 17 digs in the loss.
Alberta has won eight straight and improve to 16-4, while Calgary has lost four straight and fall to 9-9.
“Our backs were against the wall and we really had nowhere to go but up. For some of us, this was our last conference home game and we wanted to do everything we could to win, but we had to trust each other and continue to battle and that’s what we did,” said senior middle George Hobern, who recorded 11 kills in the win.
Alberta let two late leads slip away from them in the opening two sets as the Dinos came out playing desperate, trying to clinch a playoff berth.
Alberta closed out a tight third set, 25-22, to gain some momentum, but Calgary looked destined to take the game in four sets as they were in control of the fourth set, leading the majority of the way.
A kill from Kennedy gave Alberta a 17-16 lead, but then Calgary went on a run to lead by a 24-20 score, but somehow, the Golden Bears dug deep out their big hole and went on a 7-1 run to win that fourth set.
“Once we won that third set, I knew we were coming back and winning in five (sets),” said Hobern. “We’ve had an identity of being bad news and what that means to me is being hard to play against. Making teams throw everything they have at us and when they have nothing left, we break their will.”
That was evident in the fourth set as the Golden Bears were almost on the brink of defeat, but Friesen had a massive fourth set with eight of his 23 kills, including the one that closed out the set victory.
Alberta wasn’t going to back down and they dominated Calgary in the fifth and final set, going on a 7-1 run to clinch the comeback.
“These games mean so much to us in the standings. We need to fight for every point we can get the rest of the season because we need to set ourselves up as best we can for a playoff run to nationals,” said Hobern. “These are the type of games you learn a lot about yourself as a team, and once we started to find that confidence, we ran with it.”
The Golden Bears travel to Saskatoon next weekend to face the University of Saskatchewan Huskies to wrap up their regular season, while Calgary travels to Winnipeg to take on the University of Winnipeg Wesmen.