EDMONTON — It’s been a slow start to the Canada West season for the University of Alberta Pandas for their standards, but they’re certainly not dwelling on it. Alberta looked in fine form in a straight-sets win (25-22, 25-15, 25-14) over the University of Winnipeg Wesmen, Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Outside hitter Kory White led Alberta with 13 kills and five digs, while Vanessa Jarman had seven kills, three aces, and four digs in the victory.
Emma Parker recorded 11 kills and five digs in the loss for the Wesmen.
It was a special win for Alberta. The team not only improved their record to 3-4, but it was the 800th career overall win for Pandas head coach Laurie Eisler.
With the victory, Eisler becomes the first coach in U of A history to reach that mark. She’s just the second women's volleyball coach in U SPORTS history to record 800 wins.
“We were tight for sure at the start and fighting it, but once we settled in and relaxed, we started to believe more and we got our offence going,” said Eisler. “We try to get stronger as the match goes, and I felt we did that tonight.
We know that we have to focus on our performance. You start every season, not from scratch, but from a new mould and this group is moulding itself and finding a way to work together. I think what we’re going to see is, every week, we’re going to keep getting better and better. This group works hard. It’s been a tough start, but we’ve learned a lot.”
After a tight opening set that saw Winnipeg test the Pandas, Alberta stepped it up another level in the second and third sets. Their service game was spectacular, giving Winnipeg all kinds of trouble.
The Wesmen recorded 11 return errors, and in the second set, Jarman had back-to-back aces to break the set open and give Alberta a 14-6 lead.
Jarman had a big second set, recording five of her seven kills.
In the third set, setter Elyse Hart had back-to-back-to-back aces to help Alberta jump out to a 7-0 run. Alberta recorded 11 aces in the win over Winnipeg.
“She (Jarman) did a really nice job and Elyse did a good job placing the ball for her. Vanessa is a talented athlete and we had more opportunities to get her the ball and she took advantage of it,” said Eisler. “They have a great middle offence, so we knew we had to be aggressive in the service game to get them out of system and that really helped a lot.”
Alberta was in full control in the final two sets, not giving up the lead once. They forced Winnipeg to play tentative and when they had opportunities to go on big scoring runs, they did.
In the third set, after jumping out to a 7-0 lead, they continued to pour it on to 14-4 as they left Winnipeg in the dust, closing out the set with ease.
“We’ve learned the hard way that if you end a serving run for your opponent, bad things happen,” said Eisler. “When you get chances to score points, you just got to keep scoring points. We’re getting better in our service game and that’s helping us offensively.”
Alberta will wrap up their weekend series with Winnipeg on Saturday at 5:00 p.m.