Cameron Doherty, Huskie Athletics
SASKATOON – The University of Saskatchewan Huskies had a momentary lapse in the third set but took care of business in the fourth to defeat the UBC Okanagan Heat by a score of 3-1 (25-14, 26-24, 18-25, 25-22) on Ron & Jane Graham Centre Court on Nov. 30.
The host Huskies had the advantage on offence and defence in the game, converting on .309 per cent of their attacks compared to .164 for UBCO, while also recording 8.5 more blocks in the contest.
Dylan Mortensen finished on 20 of his 48 swings with Colin Fraser adding 12 kills and a game-high 15 digs. CJ Gavlas was once again key for the Huskies offence, recording 42 assists in the game.
Brennan Goski made things happen for the Heat, putting up 16 kills and ten digs. Max Heppell with ten kills and Matt Aubrey with nine rounded out the top scorers for UBCO.
Saskatchewan has now won two games in a row and hold a record of 5-6 on the season. For the Heat, the loss continues a difficult start to the season that has seen them drop their first 11 games of Canada West play.
Saskatchewan dominated the first set, converting on over half of their attempts en route to the 25-14 win. Mortensen and Fraser had four and three kills respectively, while the Huskies also recorded three service aces and four blocks.
"The first set was great, I thought it was a quick start from our guys," said Huskies head coach Nathan Bennett. "We've been struggling with our starts lately so that was a focus for us and I thought we did a really good job."
UBCO refused to go away without a fight however and rebounded to keep things close in the second.
Led by eight kills from Goski, the Heat held a set-point at 24-23 but weren't able to put a resilient Huskies squad away. Saskatchewan roared back to take a 25-24 lead and on their first set-point of the frame, Gavlas laid out for a beautiful pancake dig that Cody Caldwell was able to float over the Heat blockers for the 26-24 victory.
The Heat avoided the sweep with a dominant, 25-18 third set victory.
UBCO's .346 hitting percentage in the frame was by far their best of the night with Goski and Aubrey combining for ten of the Heat's 12 kills. Saskatchewan cut the lead to just two points late in the set but five points in a row from UBCO sent the game to a fourth frame.
"It's a testament to the strength of our league," said Bennett. "It doesn't matter what a team's record is, our entire league is strong and any team can win on a given night."
The turning point in the fourth set came with the score tied 20-20.
Two huge digs on the same rally from Fraser ended with a kill from Mortensen. That gave the Huskies the momentum they needed as Fraser, a fifth-year outside-hitter, would end the match with two-straight kills to take the set 25-22.
"We did a good job of managing the stress and some emotions and came out strong in the fourth for sure," said Bennett.
Both of these teams will be back in action to finish out their weekend series, and their respective 2018 regular season schedules, tomorrow Dec. 1 at 3:00 p.m.