By Bobby Mihalik
GRANDE PRAIRIE, AL – Pulling off an incredible comeback victory, the Humber Hawks women's volleyball team survived a hard-fought quarterfinal match against the Élans de Garneau, taking their opening match in the CCAA National Championship in five sets (27-29, 21-25, 25-14, 25-17, 15-13) Thursday evening.
The Hawks were challenged by the Élans from the get-go, repeatedly falling behind early as both teams battled for the lead. Grabbing a 12-10 lead on Brynne Spence-Coleman's serving halfway through the set, the Hawks fought to stay in control. After holding the lead for most of the set's second half, the Hawks fell victim to a five-point Élans rally that left them fighting to keep the set alive. While the Hawks successfully pushed the set into extra points, they could not complete the comeback, ultimately dropping the first 29-27.
Trying to recover from their first set loss, the Hawks took an early three-point lead in the second, but the Élans remained right on their heels. Unable to string consecutive points together or put any distance between themselves and their opponents, the Hawks coughed up their lead midway through the set after the Élans scored four straight. Tying the game at 17 points apiece, the Hawks stalled as the Élans dominated, going up by five with just a point to go. Needing five straight points to keep themselves alive in the set, the Hawks managed just two, falling behind 0-2 in sets as the Élans took the second with a 25-21 score.
After an Élans ace opened the third set, the Hawks' overwhelming offence finally arrived. Going on three separate four-point rallies, fuelled by Spence-Coleman, Breanna Golding, and Jasmine Lougheed, the Hawks grabbed a giant nine-point lead. Snuffing out any chance of an Élans comeback, the Hawks continued their roll, snuffing out the Élans' offence and taking the third set 25-14, keeping the game alive and forcing a fourth set.
Falling behind by two to open the fourth, the Hawks rebounded with Devan O'Connor taking charge during a huge seven-point streak. Holding a ten-point lead late in the set, the Hawks' offensive pressure briefly dipped as the Élans attempted a comeback. Fantastic serving from Celine Blanchette and an Élans fourth touch error, however, sealed a fourth set victory for the Hawks with a 25-17 score, sending the game into a final fifth set.
For the first time in the match, the Hawks opened the scoring in a set, taking a 4-0 lead in the fifth thanks to offensive dominance from Spence-Coleman. Two Élans points were then immediately answered by another four consecutive Hawks points, but the Élans would challenge the Hawks again. Erasing the Hawks' six-point lead, the Élans evened the scoreboard at ten apiece but could not pull ahead. A Blanchette ace put the Hawks ahead by two, but the lead disappeared again as the Élans grabbed a one-point lead with only two more needed to win. The Hawks would not surrender another point, however, scoring three straight, highlighted by a spectacular Spence-Coleman kill, coming out on top 15-13 and sealing their comeback victory.
Spence-Coleman, who was named the Player of the Game for the Hawks, tied for the team lead in scoring with 21 points (20 kills, one block). Golding also had 21 points for the Hawks (19 kills, two blocks).
Lougheed (18 points; nine kills, two serving aces, seven blocks), Nicole Collard (14 points; seven kills, three serving aces, four blocks), and O'Connor (12 points; seven kills, three serving aces, two blocks) also finished in the double digits for Humber.
Leading the Élans was Justine Raymond, who had 11 points (eight kills, one serving ace, two blocks). Three other Élans players finished with nine points.
With their quarterfinal round victory, the Hawks advance to the semi-finals, where they will face the winner of Game #4. Scheduled start time is Friday at 8:00 p.m. MST (10:00 p.m. EST).