CALGARY - The Alberta Pandas punched their ticket to the Canada West Final with a 3-1 win (25-18, 27-25, 22-25, 25-15) over the Mount Royal Cougars in Game 3 of their semifinal series on Sunday.
With the win, the Pandas advanced to the 2020 Canada West Final next weekend, while also securing their spot at the U SPORTS Championship, hosted by the Calgary Dinos.
The Pandas will travel to Langley, to take on the Trinity Western Spartans next weekend in the single-game CW Final. It will mark the fourth-straight nationals appearance for the Alberta women.
"We knew we had to control what we could control and just stay steady. We're a patient team, we are willing to play two or three hours or whatever it takes to win," said Pandas head coach Laurie Eisler. "We knew they would fight back, they gave us a bit of a different look and I thought we adjusted well."
The Pandas would start out on top in this one taking an 11-6 lead. The Cougars took a while to get settled in but after a timeout got two big clocks and an ace to close the gap. The Pandas were playing aggressively though, middle blocker Vanessa Jarman had a few big swings helping her squad keep a three point lead at the technical timeout. Alberta would take the first set 25-18.
Both teams came out of the first break with a fire lit under them. The Cougars would jump in front this time earning a 9-5 lead thanks in part to conference first team all star Nyadholi Thokbuom who had 2 big kills and an ace in the first ten points. The Pandas would grind their way back taking a one point lead at the technical timeout. The two squads would battle back and forth with Alberta taking a 20-18 lead. The home team wasn't ready to give in and fought through bringing the game within one at 23-22. On the next play Anna Carlson stuff blocked the Pandas' kill attempt to te things up. It was back and forth from there as each team had a chance to win the set. Alberta's White would finish it off with her tenth kill of the match. Two to one Pandas.
Alberta maintained their momentum into the third set taking a 7-2 lead. Alberta did a good job of holding the five point lead to the technical timeout. After the break the Cougars went on a short run but it was stifled by a calm confident Alberta side. The outside hitter tandem of Julia Zonneveld and Kory White were teeing off in this one. Mount Royal would bring it within one point at 20-19 as they fought for their chance at Canada West gold. Tied at 22-22 Anna Carlson would get a clutch ace bringing the crowd to their feet. The Cougars would end up with four straight points to take the set 25-22.
The start of fourth set was a lot closer until the Pandas broke free to take a three point lead at 9-6 forcing a timeout for the Cougars. They would come out of it strong tying the score at nine. Alberta wasn't having any of it though going on a run of their own thanks to the strong serving of setter Elyse Hart. With a 16-10 lead at the technical the Pandas would look to shut down another Cougars comeback bringing the lead to seven at 20-13. They would end up taking the set 25-15 and winning the match three sets to one.