UBC Okanagan Heat head coach Steve Manuel has won the Coach of the Year Award in just his second year of play in the ultra-competitive Canada West conference.
Coach Manuel guided his team to a 15-7 record, nine wins better than 2011-12 and good enough for a fourth place finish with the chance to host a conference quarter-final..
With a chance at the host spot Manuel guided his team to four straight wins to close out this season knocking two teams out of the playoffs in the process. Manuel’s team’s knocked off then No. 1 Trinity Western in December and finished in the CIS top ten eight of the last nine weeks.
In his twelfth season at the helm of the Heat Manuel is no stranger to the coach of the year award, having earned that honour in five of his ten years in the BCCAA (now known as the PACWEST), and a three time winner of the national coach of the year in the CCAA (Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association).
"UBC Okanagan is very fortunate to have Steve Manuel leading our women's volleyball program,” says Rob Johnson, director of athletics and recreation at UBC’s Okanagan campus. “He is a great example of a professional coach - thorough technical knowledge of his sport, a gifted instructor and communicator, an honest and successful recruiter, a caring mentor of his student athletes, and administratively very organized. Steve is without a doubt, one of the finest coaches in the CIS."
Steve’s team this year finished top three in the standings, but unlike the other three teams at the top of the league his squad was not anchored by a bevy of all-stars, placing just one player on the team, in rookie setter Emily Oxland. Coach Manuel deftly used his entire roster to produce wins, going with the ‘hot hand’ and finding the right player to come in and serve at just the right time.
As Steve said his team “played by committee and won by committee.” Utilizing lineups that would mix senior players: like Alex Basso, Kendra Wayling, Jill Festival and Myrte Schön, with a strong group of young players that consistently saw floor time such as the pair of second year middle’s: Katy Klomps and Katie Wuttunee or fist year setter Emily Oxland, and he then sprinkled in stellar performances from first or second year players: Megan Festival, Brianna Beamish and Kaitlynn Given.
The Heat’s calling card this season was their defense, as Manuel rotated his two liberos, Kailin Jones and Lenai Schmidt, to produce tremendous results. As a team UBC Okanagan was fourth in digs at 13.53 per set and third in opponent’s hitting percentage at .140. The Heat were also one of the fiercest at the net, averaging 2.10 blocks per set for the season.
Things look good going forward for coach Manuel and his team as they lose only one player, Alex Basso, from this year’s squad, and will return a strong contingent of second and third year players ready to push farther in the Canada West playoffs in 2013-14 - with an eye on a chance at the final eight.