February 13, 2007
Slim lineup and all, Wolves men's volleyball team records sweep over Eagles
By JEFF KORENKO
Herald-Tribune sports writer
A depleted lineup afforded the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves men's volleyball squad a chance to take a gander in the mirror this weekend.
What was reflected as they battled tooth and nail with the visiting King's University College Eagles in ACAC matches Friday night and Saturday afternoon was a shining example that their collective character could carry them through adversity.
Resting libero Curran Speager and stalwart right-sider David Doll - which forced middle Matt Clegg out on the flank - the Wolves nonetheless managed to sweep the Eagles, doing so in come-from-behind fashion.
Paced by 19 kills from Elijah Muennich and 15 more from Donald MacNeill, GPRC recorded a 3-1 (19-25, 28-26, 25-23, 25-22) win Saturday at the college gym, which followed a Friday match that saw them win in five sets after trailing 2-0.
"It wasn't pretty, but they sure played with pride this weekend," said men's head coach Loren Jacula. "We were in our home gym for our last regular-season game at home. I am just really happy for them because I know they wanted to play well and win this weekend."
After losing the first set Saturday, the Wolves found themselves trailing 24-19 in the second. A hard kill and a tip at the net on second touch by Russ Lawrence and a put-away by Muennich drew them to within two.
The defence then took over to bring them even as Lawrence, Rodney Hafner and Muennich combined to thwart a middle attack by the Eagles and usual second-string setter Matt Kostiuk - playing for the second weekend in a row in place of Speager, who is still nursing a twisted knee - dove to keep a ball alive that led to Muennich tying the set at 24 with a spike to the floor in the heart of the Eagles' defence.
With the teams tied at 26, Muennich then pounded the ball off a block and out and Brant Rumpel completed the comeback with a monster smash above the mesh.
Just as they did Friday night, they were able to carry that momentum through two more tight sets to take the match. The third proved to be the Eli Muennich show, as the Wolves simply kept feeding him the ball, allowing him to rack up the majority of his kills; a tack for which the Eagles had no answer.
"King's is a very good team. We had to come from behind both (matches) and try to pull it out," said Jacula. "We got some good leadership from Eli for sure and Matt Clegg picked it up. Guys stepped up. Most of the sets, we were down. They came in and got leads and we just scrapped and scrapped and scrapped and wore them down."
And while Muennich may have put forth a highlight reel of how to dominate on offence, it was the little things the team did right and the poise it showed - such as rookie Kostiuk digging out five balls in the backcourt to earn his team's player-of-the game honours - that had Jacula smiling afterward.
Saturday's win was the fourth in a row for the Wolves, who finished the regular season with a record of 14-10, good fourth place in the Blue Division as they head to provincials in Red Deer two weekends from now.
"We are going to have everyone healthy and if we can show the character we did (Saturday) at provincials, we are going to be tough to beat," Jacula warned.
The pair of losses by the sixth-place Eagles, who were paced offensively by 12 kills from Jon Whitton, 10 from Mikiah Schalk and nine by Dan Dykstra, dropped their record to 6-18.
While the men turned in a gutsy effort to earn a weekend sweep, the Wolves women's performance at times Saturday was somewhat spotty in falling 3-1 (25-23, 18-25, 10-25, 21-25).
The loss dropped the Wolves to 11-13 to finish the regular season after a 3-1 win Friday night. Usually strong on serve-receive, the Wolves had trouble with the Eagles' service game and they made far too many unforced errors offensively, said coach Grace Scott.
"I would have liked us to play a lot better. We really scrambled," said Scott. "We struggled here and there with our serve receive, with our defence. It just seemed that once we got going, our hitting fell apart.
"We weren't getting both our offence and defence together at the same time. We had moments where both were OK. I would have liked to come away from this weekend with two wins. We are a team that was capable of doing that."
The women got off to a solid start and got consecutive kills from Erinn Brady down the line and Kim Wayland in the middle to pull away from a 14-14 stalemate and jump ahead 20-16 in winning the opening game.
However, they fell behind early in the second and although they managed to tie the score at 15, the Eagles were able to rattle off six straight points directly off Wolves' hitting miscues to jump ahead. An ace by the Eagles' Stacey Kruger finished off the set. A 25-10 win by King's in the third was spearheaded by the effectiveness of Lorraine Enge and Bailey Wilson, who began to dominate the net offensively and dug King's out of trouble all afternoon.
Enge led the Eagles, who improved to 8-16 with the win, with 16 kills and 17 digs while Wilson finished with 12 and 15, respectively.
Kristen Roberts finished with 10 kills for the Wolves, Wayland had eight and Brady six.
Friday night in a 3-1 (25-15, 25-19, 19-25, 25-22) win, Brady finished with 15 kills and Wayland had 11. Stacey Head had 17 digs.
Wilson had 13 kills to lead the Eagles.
Trailing 2-0 in sets after losing 23-25, 18-25, the men rebounded to score 25-19, 25-23 and 15-12 decisions.
MacNeill racked up a whopping 23 kills to lead all hitters, while Muennich chipped in with 12. Lawrence, Clegg and Rumpel each had three blocks, while Muennich also contributed eight digs and Kostiuk picked up seven.
For King's, Schalk, with 18, and Dykstra combined for 35 kills.
The Wolves women will be in Edmonton at Grant MacEwan for their provincial tournament in two weeks.