Stu Walters UBC /Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER - The UBC Thunderbirds extended their winning streak to five straight games after getting past the Brandon Bobcats in straight sets 3-0 (25-11, 27-25, 25-22) to sweep the weekend series at War Memorial Gym. Canada's No. 2-ranked T-Birds improved their record to 16-2 while the Bobcats ranked No. 4 fall to 12-6 on the season.
The 'Birds got out to a determined start in the first set showing good execution in jumping out to a healthy lead en route to a 25-11 win. Fifth-year left side Keith West led the way with three of his game high 10 kills while fourth-year setter Byron Keturakis began a productive night chipping in with four digs and six assists. The 'Birds were also efficient from the service line delivering an impressive seven aces in the opening set, leading the way was team captain Irvan Brar with three early aces.
After a sluggish first set the Bobcats came back to life in a very competitive back and forth second set. Liam Matheson led the way for the visitors with four of his team high eight kills while Elliott Viles added three of his five kills on the night. Setting the tone once again for the 'Birds was West with five kills while teammates Brar and Fynn McCarthy added three kills each in the frame.
The third set was entertaining with several momentum swings throughout. One sequence midway through the set saw Bobcats outside hitter Seth Friesen made an impressive diving pancake save, one of his four digs on the night that led to a 18-16 lead for the visitors while also causing T-Birds head coach Kerry MacDonald to call a timeout. The timeout worked effectively for the hosts who began to takeover momentum thanks to kills from McCarthy and Brar to pull UBC within one point at 20-19. That's when Keturakis took it to another level from the service line in delivering three straight aces to give the 'Birds a 22-20 lead. The match would be determined not long after with two straight gritty plays at the net as West outmuscled an opponent for a key joust win and a 24-22 advantage. Finally, it was fourth-year middle Joel Regehr with the match point block to secure the straight sets win.
Thunderbirds head coach Kerry MacDonald was pleased with his team setting the tone early in the contest.
"I was really pleased with that opening set," said MacDonald. "I thought it showed the type of service pressure that we're capable of and it put a lot of pressure on Brandon. That's something we're capable of doing but it's tough to sustain for the whole night as it was exceptional but certainly overall very pleased with how we served on the night."
MacDonald also touched on one of the turning points in the final set when Keturakis strung together three of his team high four service aces on the night in straight succession.
"Byron's serve is something he's been able to do on a regular basis for us and we have a lot of guys that can go back to the service line and earn us points and we know we can turn a match around from the service line," MacDonald continued. "Byron did that for sure in that moment and you love to see a player that has trained as hard as he has been able to step up and execute when it really counts."
Also standing out for the Bobcats along with Matheson was Friesen who had seven kills and four digs on the evening, while Mason Metcalf tallied six kills. For the T-Birds Brar had six kills and six digs while McCarthy chipped in with six kills and three service aces. Keturakis completed his stat line with nine digs and 29 assists to go along with his four service aces.
The Bobcats return home to host the MacEwan Griffins in Brandon next weekend while the Thunderbirds hit the road to meet the Regina Cougars.
PHOTO: Wilson Wong / UBC Thunderbirds