A fantastic season ends with a four set loss to reigning Canada West champions the UBC Thunderbirds (13-25, 25-20, 25-19 and 25-15) in Edmonton in the Canada West Bronze medal match Friday afternoon.
Women's Volleyball (Canada West postseason play)
| UBC Okanagan
|UBC (13-11 CW, 3-1 PS)||13||25||25||25||3|
|UBC Okanagan (19-5 CW, 2-2 PS)||25||20||19||15||1|
EDMONTON, AB – The season ended abruptly and not as planned for UBC Okanagan thanks to a 3-1 (13-25, 25-20, 25-19 and 25-15) loss to the UBC Thunderbirds Friday afternoon in the Canada West women’s volleyball bronze medal match in Edmonton at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
The loss ends a brilliant season by the Heat women’s volleyball team as only the top three teams from Canada West will advance to the CIS national championship tournament.
"This team is doing unbelievable things, almost unimaginable things this early in our program and for us to be here again, second year in a row and to be three points away from advancing to the nationals on the first night and so close to getting it done," said a proud head coach Steve Manuel. "We’ve seen a constant evolution of the program, we have gotten further than expected, and we fully expect that the same thing will happen again next year and the year after that the same thing will happen again. This is an amazing group of student athletes and we are not anywhere near done breaking records and turning heads in women’s volleyball."
Last year after falling to the Trinity Western Spartans in the same bronze medal match head coach Steve Manuel described his program’s rocket to the top of the CIS as ‘spectacular’ and although the team’s storybook season ended at the same point this year the body of work done throughout the 10 month grinder of a season and the heights and consistency the team reached during the breadth of September through mid-February would definitely be described as ‘spectacular’.
The final thing Manuel said at the end of last year was a warning :"Look out everyone, we're coming back strong next year." And did the team ever come back strong, finishing in first place in Canada West with a 19-5 record, winning nearly 80-percent of their games. In the national rankings the team spent 12 of the 13 weeks ranked either No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3, spending two weeks as the top ranked women’s volleyball team in the country.
This year the team was also rewarded with two players on the Canada West All-Star teams and had a 13 game winning streak. The Heat only lost to four Canadian schools all year long and three of them have advanced to the CIS national tournament.
Thursday night in the semi-final UBC Okanagan struggled offensively and never played their brand of volleyball but the size of Trinity and their national best (3.13) blocks per set will do that to a team.
The first set versus the Thunderbirds in the bronze medal match on Friday the Heat exploded onto the court hammering the T’Birds, cranking out 11 kills, a .308 hitting percentage and three aces to take a 1-0 match lead thanks to a 25-13 score line. Canada West first team all-star Katy Klomps was a force for UBC Okanagan, recording four kills and a sterling .800 hitting percentage to pace the Heat to the first set win.
Klomps would finish with just 10 kills after her stellar first set but was very effective recording a (.667) hitting percentage and four blocks as a team UBC Okanagan were out-blocked by UBC 14.5-7 over the four sets.
After owning their UBC-based rivals in the match opener the T-Birds roared to life in the second as they put together a six point run to pick up a 15-4 lead that morphed into a 16-9 advantage at the technical timeout. UBC closed out the set 25-20 to bring the match to 1-1.
The third set opened great for UBC Okanagan as Megan Festival opened the match from the service line and led the Heat to a quick 6-0 run as she spun four aces to earn those six points, she would finish with a match high four aces and Festival would also finish tied for tops on UBC Okanagan with 10 kills and earned the Mikasa player of the match for the Heat.
After her run to start the third the Heat would generate no more offense in the match as Lisa Barclay returned Festival’s service run with a seven point one of her own and the Birds would then get to the technical timeout up 16-11 and grab the set 25-19.
The third set the teams were going in opposite directions as UBC hit (.424) in the third and (.579) in the fourth, after hitting (.000) in the second. UBC Okanagan hit (-.037) and (.045) in the third and fourth respectively. The Heat would finish with an attack percentage of (.071) on the night, by far the lowest they hit on the season – their previous worse was in the semi-final when they swung and connected on (.090) for the match.
"We did not have our best performance this weekend. We still need to learn how to win at this level at the end of the season. Again that’s a process," explains Manuel. "Team’s don’t do that in their second, third, fourth year because teams are not normally here in their second third or fourth year."
This current squad is losing just one player, Myrte Schön and coach Manuel is looking at the big picture and just how impressive and unprecedented it is for his team to be where it is and how it will likely start next year, returning all of its starting players, again as one of the top team's in the country. "The team is very disappointed we did not accomplish all our goals. We did not play are best volleyball this year [at the championships]. Not even close. But big picture we are doing amazing things."
In the loss to UBC on Friday the T'Birds were led by Lisa Barclay, the 2014 CIS player of the year who is originally from Brandon, Manitoba and is a member of the Canadian national team, picked up three kills in the fourth, including the match winner to finish with 12 kills, one ace, five digs, a .345 hitting percentage and player of the game honours.
Rosie Schlagintweit led the UBC hit parade, finishing with a match high 17 kills, while Danielle Brisebois earned 16 kills in the win. After the tough first set, in which UBC recorded a .034 team hitting percentage, the Thunderbirds finished with an even .300 percentage by match end. They also overcame 19 service errors, but did throw up 14.5 total blocks.
The Canada West Final Four victory gives UBC, winners of six of the last seven national championship trophies, the bronze medal, but more importantly sends them to University of Toronto next weekend, where they will contend for the national championship as the third and final seed out of Canada West.
They’ll advance to the U of T hosted tournament along with the University of Alberta Pandas and the Trinity Western Spartans, who will meet in the Canada West gold medal match on Friday at 7:30 p.m. PST.