HAMILTON (CIS) – The Alberta Golden Bears added a bronze medal to their collection on Saturday, defeating the Saskatchewan Huskies in straight sets at the 50th CIS Men's Volleyball Championship presented by Leggat Auto Group.
Heading into the championship, Alberta, had been the two-time defending champion, but this year the Golden Bears had to settle for a third place finish.
Set scores for the bronze medal match were 25-14, 27-25 and 25-23 for Alberta.
The Golden Bears have faired well in the national championship, making 23 overall appearances and bringing home a medal 19 times. Alberta has finished as champions eight times, six as silver medalists, and now have five bronze with the win today.
Ryley Barnes of St. Paul, Alta., earned player of the game honours, posting 14 points including 11 kills and two aces. He also registered seven digs defensively, which was among the game's best.
Last night, Alberta lost a five-set thriller in the semifinal to Trinity Western, and clearly their mind was set to ensure they ended their 2015-16 campaign with a win.
"We talked about today and said that we didn't want last night's match to define us," said Barnes a First Team CIS All-Canadian for the Golden Bears. "This was a character match, and we wanted to come out and show what Golden Bears volleyball is. That was a devastating loss yesterday, and all the best to Trinity Western, but today, we wanted to show our true colours."
Alberta head coach Terry Danyluk agreed with Barnes assessment.
"On the day, you're either good enough or you're not," said Danyluk. "The last few years, we've been the best team when it mattered, but this year, we didn't have all of the pieces we needed."
"We're not invincible as athletes, and every team is the team on the day that they show up."
Ryan Nickifor of Sherwood led the Golden Bears with 15.5 points along with a game high 12 kills in the win. CIS Player of the Year Brett Walsh of Calgary totaled a game-high 28 assists in the win.
For Saskatchewan, Jordan Nowakowski of Rama, Sask., led the Huskies with 11 points, including 10 kills and one block. Teammate Colin Fraser of Saskatoon was named the Huskies player of the game tallying 8.5 points, contributing three digs in a well-rounded performance.
Setter C.J. Gavlas of Saskatoon registered 21 assists for the Huskies.
An 8-0 deficit in the opening set was the undoing for Saskatchewan, as the Huskies had to continually battle from behind, never taking a comfortable lead in two of the three sets.
"In all three sets, we started off pretty slow and were forced to try to catch up each time," said Gavlas, who, earlier this week, was named CIS Rookie of the Year. "That's was definitely tough, but it was the first eight points every time that put us behind."
"They were serving pretty tough, especially in the first couple of sets, where we didn't have much going offensively."
The second set was more closely contested, with Saskatchewan at one point building a four-point lead. However, Alberta kept chipping away, and eventually tied the game at 24, before taking over to win it 27-25. In the third, Saskatchewan continued to keep pace, but ultimately fell 25-23.
The Golden Bears never lost a set to Saskatchewan, this year sweeping all three games contested against the Huskies dating back to Nov. 6 & 7th in Canada West league play.
Kills: Ryan Nickifor (12), Ryley Barnes (11)
Points: Ryan Nickifor (15.5), Ryley Barnes (14)
Blocks: John Goranson (3)
Digs: Alex McMullin (8)
Service aces: Ryley Barnes (2), Alex McMullin (2)
Player of the match: Ryley Barnes
Kills: Jordan Nowakowski (10), Colin Fraser (7)
Points: Jordan Nowakowski (10), Tyler Epp (10)
Blocks: Tyler Epp (5)
Digs: Etienne Hagenbuch (6)
Service aces: Andrew Nelson (2)
Player of the match: Colin Fraser
CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE & RESULTS
Thursday, March 10
13:00 Quarter-final #1: Trinity Western 3, Ryerson 1 (25-19, 25-22, 23-25, 26-24)
15:00 Quarter-final #2: Alberta 3, Laval 0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-19)
18:00 Quarter-final #3: Saskatchewan 3, UNB 2 (23-25, 25-20, 19-25, 25-20, 15-10)
20:00 Quarter-final #4: McMaster 3, Waterloo 0 (25-15, 25-15, 25-18)
Friday, March 11
13:00 Consolation #1: Laval 3, Ryerson 2 (22-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-17 16-14)
15:00 Consolation #2: UNB 3, Waterloo 1 (23-25, 21-25, 25-18, 25-23, 15-10)
18:00 Semifinal #1: Trinity Western 3, Alberta 2 (18-25, 25-20, 25-19, 20-25, 15-11)
20:00 Semifinal #2: McMaster 3, Saskatchewan 0 (32-30, 26-24, 25-17)
Saturday, March 12
13:00 5th place: Laval 3, UNB 0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-17)
15:00 Bronze: Alberta 3, Saskatchewan 0 (25-14, 27-25, 25-23)
18:00 Championship final: Trinity Western vs. McMaster (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv) *
* Tape delayed to 22:00 on Cable 14.