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Huskies middle blocker Mariama Syll powers an attack agains the Acadia Axewomen during a 3-2 Axewomen win on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022.
Huskies middle blocker Mariama Syll powers an attack agains the Acadia Axewomen during a 3-2 Axewomen win on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022.

Axewomen outlast Huskies in thrilling five-set battle

HALIFAX, N.S. - The Saint Mary's Huskies women's volleyball team were defeated 3-2 by the Acadia Axewomen in a Sunday afternoon matinee at the Homburg Centre.

The Huskies came into the game atop the AUS standings with an 8-2 record, despite losing their last two games to the UNB REDS. The Axewomen came in with a 6-3 record, fresh off a loss to the Dalhousie Tigers on Saturday. Saint Mary's and Acadia had one previous meeting on the season, with the Huskies winning 3-1 on Nov. 19 in Halifax.

With AUS All-Star outside hitter Olivia Bell (LaHave, NS) out of the Huskies line-up with an injury, it was second year outside hitter Megan Bruhm (Hubley, NS) who led the Huskies attack, scoring powerful kills from both sides of the court.

Acadia took an early 4-1 first set lead, but the Huskies were able to fight back to tie the game at 9-9, before two straight kills by Bruhm on the left side gave the Huskies a 16-12 lead heading into the technical timeout.

The Axewomen looked to be inspired coming out of the technical timeout, cutting the Huskies lead to 17-14, before Anica Jestratijevic (Arandjelovac, Serbia) went on a four serve streak, with one service ace and a kill, pushing the lead to 21-14. On the penultimate point of the first set, Huskies setter Jakobie Friesen (Barrie, ON) made an impressive set from her knees to find Bruhm for the kill, and the Huskies went on to win the first set 25-19.

Bruhm led the Huskies with an impressive 7 kills in the first set, while Friesen's excellent passing contributed 12 assists. The Axewomen were led by Taylor Collombin (Victoria, BC) with 3 kills, 2 digs and one ace, and Wesley-Ann Bailey (Ottawa, ON) with 3 kills and one solo block.

The second set was all Axewomen early, as they opened up a 14-8 lead thanks to some stellar play from middle Erica Fisher (Middle Stewiacke, NS). The Huskies responded with a quick run of their own, as a Nada Hamdy (Cairo, Egypt) ace, and Mariama Syll (Charters Settlement, NB) cut into the Axewomen lead, before a Sydney Zakutney (Ottawa, ON) kill sent them into the technical timeout with Acadia leading 16-11. 

Back-to-back service aces by Zakutney extended the Acadia lead to 21-13, before the Huskies went on a nice run to cut the lead to 23-18, which included positive contributions by first year reserves Madeline Watson (Brampton, ON) and Paige Deering (Calgary, AB). Despite the run, the Axewomen went on to win the second set by a score of 25-19, matching the Huskies first set score.

The even play continued into the third set, with both teams exchanging points early and getting into several marathon rallies. A pair of powerful kills by Hamdy gave the Huskies a 14-11 lead, forcing Axewomen coach Michelle Wood to call a timeout. The Axewomen responded and went on a quick 3-1 run, before Bruhm's kill sent the set into the technical timeout with the Huskies leading 16-14.

With the Huskies leading 21-18, a strange moment occurred when Hamdy's attack caused Taylor Collombin's earring to break, bringing the game to a stop as a fan helped her pick up the pieces off the Homburg Centre court. On the following play, the Axewomen were called out of rotation, leading to a five-minute officials stoppage. When the game finally resumed, the Huskies were able to score four of the last five points to win the set 25-19 and take a 2-1 set lead.

The fourth set was another tight affair, with the two team's exchanging leads and Acadia taking a 16-14 lead into the technical timeout. The Axewomen held a two point lead, until a Bethany Smith service ace tied the set at 21-21. Led by some great play by outside hitter Emilie Albert (Hammonds Plains, NS), the Axewomen were able to win the next three points and take the fourth set 25-22, forcing a decisive fifth set.

The fifth set was as back and forth as it gets. The two team's continued to trade points until the Axewomen were able to score three straight points on the serve of Sydney Zakutney, and open up a 9-7 lead. Huskies coach Darren Russell called timeout, and his team responded, with Nada Hamdy and Mariama Syll scoring several points by service and at the net, and the Huskies were able to tie it up at 13-13. 

With the game tied at 13, a fantastic rally ensued, with Taylor Collombin eventually powering a cross-court kill past the scrambling Huskies to give the Axewomen the 14-13 advantage. At match point, Collombin had a block at the net to win the set 15-13, and the match 3 sets to 2.

Axewomen middle Erica Fisher (Middle Stewiacke, NS) was named Subway Player of the Game with 14 kills, 2.5 blocks and a service ace for 17.5 points. Taylor Collombin led all players with 24.5 points including 20 kills, 3 service aces, and 1.5 blocks, while Zakutney stuffed the stat sheet with 14 assists, 12 digs, 9 kills, 4 service aces and 1.5 blocks. 

The Axewomen win improved their record to 6-4 on the season, heading into their next matchup, Friday, Feb. 25 against the Dalhousie Tigers in Wolfville, before hosting the Huskies the next day.

The Huskies were led by Megan Bruhm with 18 kills and 13 digs, while Bethany Smith posted 10 kills, 1.5 blocks and an ace. Setter Jakobie Friesen (Barrie, ON) led the match with 42 assists and now leads the AUS with 401 assists on the season, while libero Renee Cleveland (Saint-Martin, NS) had a game high 19 digs.

With the loss, the Huskies record dropped to 8-3 on the season. Their next game will be a rematch against the Axewomen, as the two teams are scheduled to play two more matches in the next 10 days, on Saturday, Feb. 26 and Wednesday, March 2, with Acadia hosting both games in Wolfville.