A backs-to-the-wall five set comeback for the Heat over the Pandas on Saturday night in a heavyweight Canada West women’s volleyball match. Score: 3-2 (25-16, 23-25, 11-25, 25-21, 19-17) .
Women’s Volleyball (Canada West conference match)
Saturday, January 16th, 2016
UBC Okanagan gymnasium, Kelowna, BC
SET SCORES 1 2 3 4 5 TEAM RECORDS Alberta............. (2) 16 25 25 21 17 13-3 UBC Okanagan........ (3) 25 23 11 25 19 15-1
KELOWNA, BC – In a marathon five-set contest at the UBC Okanagan gymnasium, the Heat women’s volleyball completed the sweep against the University of Alberta Pandas, winning three sets to two on Saturday night. In a back-and-forth contest that saw the Pandas win the second and third sets, the Heat managed to come back and win two sets in a row, taking the fifth and final set by a score of 19-17.
The match was only the second in which either team has had to play a full five sets. They were evenly matched throughout, and to the last point neither team looked to be pulling very far ahead of the other. The contest was the most challenging test for UBC Okanagan so far this season, and with the win they are tied for first in Canada West and will likely leapfrog the Pandas in CIS rankings. UBC Okanagan now has a record of 15-1, and the University of Alberta sits at 13-3.
“I think this is what we’re going to face for the rest of the season, basically,” said Heat head coach Steve Manuel after the game. “We talked about that going into the fourth set, we’re down 2-1, we weren’t playing very well, Alberta had us off balance, tough serving, varied attack, really had us off balance.”
Both teams came out swinging throughout the match, with UBC Okanagan totalling 64 kills, and the Alberta finishing with 46. The Heat finished with four players scoring more than ten kills, and the Pandas had three finish in double digits. For the Heat, Megan Festival led all scorers, with 19 kills (.204) in the match, followed close behind by Brianna Beamish who finished with 16 kills (.229). For the University of Alberta, Meg Casault led the way on offence with 16 kills (.143), and Kacey Otto behind her with 11 kills (.080).
Emily Oxland finished with 49 assists for UBCO, her second highest total of the season. She also added four blocks and 10 digs. Katie Wuttunee led led the heat with six blocks she was one of the four with over 10 kills (.368), finishing with 11. Michelle Jakszuk was the other, she swung for 12 kills on 35 swings (.114) and served for two aces.
The match leader in blocks was Panda middle Shauntelle Hogg with seven, the second year served three of her teams 11 service aces. Setter Mariah Walsh also served for three.
Both team’s liberos were sublime tonight, Kailin Jones for the Heat finished with 24 digs to give her 197 on the year, fourth in Canada West. Alberta’s Jessie Niles pulled 23 digs to bring her total to 215 on the season, second best in the conference.
The final set was the closest of the match, with both teams refusing to lose, and each side scoring ten kills. Alberta’s Kacey Otto took charge of keeping her team in it, scoring seven kills in the shortest set. Brianna Beamish answered for the Heat, putting down four kills in the set. The Heat had match point at 14-13, but the Pandas took a time-out before tying the game at 14 on a clutch kill from Meg Casault. The teams went back and forth, before UBC Okanagan capitalized on back-to-back mistakes by the University of Alberta, and put the set and the match away.
Asked what a scenario like that meant to the team, coach Manuel added, “We just talked about the opportunity that we had, that we could be facing those guys in a Canada West semi-final, could be facing them in a Canada West final, we could be facing them in the CIS final, that’s what that match was…[I]t was about continuing to get better, so we had a high pressure situation, with the outcome in the end not being as crucial as in those other situations. That’s how we embraced that fifth set. They played hard, really proud again of how [we] responded. That was playoff volleyball here tonight.”
UBC Okanagan came out stronger early than they did in the teams’ first meeting on Friday night, taking the first set 25-16. The Heat scored 15 kills and had a kill percentage of .312 in the first frame, to the Pandas’ six and .029.
The only set in which one team seemed to overpower the other was the third, which the University of Alberta won 25-11. Defensively, the Pandas overwhelmed the Heat in the frame, holding them to a -.029 kill percentage and only six kills. UBC Okanagan held the Alberta to a kill percentage of .133 for the match, though, well, below the team’s season average of .205.
In what looked more like a late-round playoff match than a mid-January regular season game, both teams played some of the best volleyball of the season. The teams will not play each other again this season unless they meet in the playoffs.
The Heat will have a bye weekend before facing the UBC Thunderbirds in two weeks (Jan. 29-30). Alberta will host the Thunderbirds this upcoming weekend, January 22-23, in Edmonton.
~ Grayson Leahy // Heat communications