Aneesa Heatherington, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The Manitoba Bisons handed the UBC Thunderbirds just their second loss of the season with a 3-2 (25-15, 25-23, 23-25, 13-25, 15-13) victory at War Memorial Gym - snapping a six-game home winning streak for the 'Birds. Manitoba jumped out to a two set lead, but Canada's No. 2 ranked T-Birds fought back to force a fifth set. With the victory, the Bisons improve to 6-7 on the season.
"At the end of the day, they played a better night of volleyball," admitted T-Bird Head Coach Kerry MacDonald. "We didn't really show up in the first two sets and made a lot of errors...it took us a while to settle in."
The visiting team was too much to handle in the first set with a decisive 25-15 win. Keith West smacked his fourth kill to put the 'Birds up 15-12 in the second, but Manitoba clawed their way back to 22-22. The Bisons then took their first lead of the set on a Kevin Negus ace en route to a 25-23 second set victory.
UBC opened the third with a Fynn McCarthy kill and a big Irvan Brar block, but the Bisons went on a five-point run to make it 6-3. Tied at 8-8, UBC briefly retook the lead on a nifty tip by Brar before Manitoba ignited another five-point streak. The 'Birds gained a 19-18 edge on a Bisons error and West blasted a kill to even it up at 20-20. Four consecutive service errors by both teams knotted it up at 23-23, and Keturakis dropped a kill for a set point. The starting setter then placed it on a platter for Brar to put away the third set on his fifth kill.
The home squad carried their third set momentum into the fourth and held a 16-9 advantage at the break before their offence flourished to a 25-13 win.
Joel Regehr went on a tear to open the fifth with three kills and the battle continued in the deciding set. Scott Vercaigne smoked an ace to give his Bisons a 10-7 lead before the 'Birds responded with a Brar kill and a Matt Sentema-Regehr block party to make it a one-point game. UBC fought off two match points before and Vercaigne put away the match with his team-high sixth kill.
"I think our serve-receive became a bit shaky in the fifth set," said fifth-year hitter West. "A lot of our success in the third and fourth set was because we were stable in our passing and could run in-system. An early slip-up in the start of the fifth set gave them the lead and we weren't able to close that gap."
The Lethbridge, Alberta product led the 'Birds with 15 kills and and added 5 digs in the loss.
"We're normally a strong serving team," added West. "I think tonight, right off the bat, it was really weak...easy serves...missed serves...same thing in the second set. I do think we can put more velocity on our serves and challenge them a bit more. That will open it up more for us."
The Thunderbirds racked up 24 serving errors and an uncharacteristically low four aces. Manitoba made 12 fewer attacking errors and totalled 17 blocks on the night.
UBC and Manitoba take to the floor at War Memorial Gym for their rematch on Saturday at 6:30 pm (PST).
PHOTO: Bob Frid, UBC Thunderbirds