Stu Walters, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER - The Alberta Golden Bears punched their ticket to the Canada West Final thanks to a 2-0 sweep of the UBC Thunderbirds and a game two 3-1 victory (20-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-23) in the best-of-three semifinal series. The T-Birds will next host the Winnipeg Wesmen in a bronze medal game next Friday while the Golden Bears meet the Trinity Western Spartans in the Canada West Final next Saturday in Langley.
Fourth-year left side Alex McMullin was recognized as Alberta's player of the match after finishing the outing with a match-high 15 kills to go along with two digs and two block assists. Taryq Sani was also a standout in adding 12 kills, 11 digs and one service ace. Michael Goertz and Arran Chambers each added six kills for visitors.
For the T-Birds it was Fynn McCarthy tying McMullin for a match-high 15 kills while adding six digs. Team captain Irvan Brar contributed 11 kills, 9 digs and two aces while UBC's player of the match, second-year middle Jordan Deshane chipped in with eight kills and three digs. Byron Keturakis finished the evening with a match-high 42 assists, 5 kills, 6 digs and two aces.
The Thunderbirds claimed the first set 25-20 on the strength of Jordan Deshane's set-high five kills while McCarthy & Keturakis each added three kills and one dig. Brar chipped in with a set-high three digs to go along with two kills and a service ace. For the Golden Bears, it was McMullin leading the way with four kills and one dig.
The 'Birds saw their efficiency drop in the second frame as evidence by their team hitting percentage dropping to .074 percent, down from a .367 clip in the opener. Brar registered a set-high four kills and added 3 more digs while McCarthy picked up three more kills and three more digs. Taryq Sani also delivered a set-high four kills while Goertz and McMullin added three kills each for Alberta who saw their team hitting percentage improve from .167 in the first set to .212 in the follow up affair en route to a 25-23 win.
The third set saw Brar tie the game at 8-8 with his lone emphatic kill of the frame but the Golden Bears responded with a series of blocks culminating in an Arran Chambers denial giving the visitors a n 11-8 lead and forcing a UBC timeout. Despite four impressive sky-high kills from each of McCarthy and Colton Liu it was Alberta that continued to lead, largely due to McMullin's set-high six kills. Sani and Luke Brisbane added four digs each for Alberta who took a second consecutive set 25-20.
The fourth set was an entertaining back and forth affair with UBC calling a timeout trailing 8-5 and the Golden Bears doing the same when the hosts tied it at 13-13 thanks to a net violation from the visitors. One of McCarthy's five kills in the set would give the 'Birds a 16-15 lead at the technical timeout while one of Brar's four kills in the frame extended the advantage to 19-18. Alberta wouldn't relent however thanks to Sani's set high six kills and four digs powering the Golden Bears to winning a third straight set 25-23 and taking the match 4-1.
Thunderbird head coach Kerry MacDonald was complimentary towards the opponents in defeat.
"They played great, hats off to them I thought that they played a really complete match," said MacDonald. "They made us have to be our best today and we weren't our best so full credit to them."
MacDonald continued on what the mentality is for the team heading into next Friday's bronze medal game against Winnipeg.
"We still need to get better and we've been trying to improve all year and I feel that the last two matches," added MacDonald "They forced us out of our comfort zone and they forced us to play better volleyball and we didn't step up, we played below our average. We'll go back and watch video and get back in the gym next week to get ready to play a strong Winnipeg team."
Golden Bears head coach Terry Danyluk was pleased with his team's impressive weekend showing.
"I thought we reacted a little poorly to start and we got a little flustered with some of the stuff we thought we'd be able to stop and didn't," said Danyluk. "We then settled in and served much better towards the end of the match and our blockers also really worked hard on getting some touches and we converted those touches which is what they were doing to us in the first half of the match."
The Thunderbirds will host the Winnipeg Wesmen in the Canada West bronze medal game on Friday, March 9 at 7 p.m. PT at War Memorial Gym. Meanwhile the Alberta Golden Bears advance to meet the Trinity Western Spartans Saturday, March 10 at 8 p.m. PT in Langley.
PHOTO: Rich Lam / UBC Thunderbirds