Stu Walters, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER - A night after suffering their first loss on home court, dropping a five-set decision to the Manitoba Bisons, The UBC Thunderbirds responded with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-23) victory at War Memorial Gym. Canada's No. 2 ranked T-Birds improved their record to 11-3 while the Bisons now sit at 6-8 on the season.
The 'Birds were able to shake off some of the rust that was evident from their extended holiday break to open the second half of the Canada West schedule on Friday night, looking much sharper and determined in claiming the opening set 25-18 over the Bisons. Fifth-year left side Keith West's energy and involvement was on display early as he set help the tone, leading the 'Birds with five kills and two digs. For the Bisons it was fourth-year middle Dustin Spiring responding with two kills and three digs.
The Bisons would respond early in the second set jumping out to an 18-11 lead but the T-Birds were able to reel the visitors back in on the strength of first-year middle Fynn McCarthy picking up five of his game high 12 kills in the set. McCarthy would drop down to add his only two digs of the night as well en route to a 25-21 victory. Standing out for the visitors was fifth-year left side Scott Vercaigne adding two kills while also chipping in with two digs in the set.
The third and final set was a close back and forth affair that included several standout performances on both sides of the net. The Bisons once again relied on Vercaigne who came through with four of his team high eight kills on the night while teammate Kevin Negus added three of his six kills and two of his four digs on the night. The Thunderbirds however were able to gain the slight edge on the strength of second-year middle Jordan Deshane contributing four of his 10 kills on the evening while West added four of his 10 kills. Joining the 10-kill club for the 'Birds in emphatic fashion on the last play of the game was fourth-year middle Joel Regehr who's powerful putdown clinched the 25-23 third set win and straight sets victory
Thunderbirds head coach Kerry MacDonald was pleased with his team's response after a setback to the Bisons to open the second half of Canada West play last night.
"I felt like tonight was a bit of a return to the level at which we're used to playing at, last night we weren't there in most areas and we just lacked consistency all around. Tonight, I thought we did a better job, we had a couple lapses there but certainly it was more the way we need to play."
The second-year head coach also appreciated the spread-out contributions from his squad.
"I think one of our strengths this year is that we've been able to get scoring from different guys when we need it. I think our middles did a great job both nights and in the second set we we're able to climb back because of the serving of Byron Keturakis (4 service aces on the night) so some versatility helped us out tonight."
The Thunderbirds will travel to Winnipeg next weekend to meet the Wesmen at the Duckworth Centre while the Bisons will host the Trinity Western Spartans.
PHOTO: Bob Frid, UBC Thunderbirds