Pandas clutch in fifth set, snare victory over WolfPack

Laurie Eisler, in her 28th season as head coach of the Alberta Pandas, has seen nearly everything Canada West women’s volleyball has to offer.

So it means something when she is borderline overwhelmed after a match.

“I am emotional,” said Eisler, whose Pandas knocked off the TRU WolfPack 3-2 in a five-set thriller on Friday at the Tournament Capital Centre.

“The team really dug deep and defined itself today.”

The home team came out flat and the Pandas were up 2-0 before TRU mascot Wolfie had time to strap on his head.

Head coach Chad Grimm’s charges, who were aiming to keep a perfect record intact, flipped a switch and fought back to tie the match at 2-2.

“I’m proud of us for turning it around,” WolfPack outside hitter Kendra Finch said. “We had a pretty slow start and didn’t play like we can.”

Fans at the TCC were ready to celebrate when the WolfPack reached match point, but the Pandas defied momentum and clutched up when it mattered most in the fifth set.

“We had a challenging start to our regular season,” Eisler said. “We had some adversity and we had a bye week. The group was really honest and got back to playing our volleyball. I’m really proud of them.”

Alberta improved to 2-3, while TRU dropped to 4-1.

“I’m proud of the girls,” Grimm said. “We’ve got to learn how to close that off. That said, we had gone eight straight fifth-set match where we won. At some point, the luck runs out.”

The rematch will get underway at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the TCC.

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