Jason Hills, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON — Their respective records are near opposite ends of the spectrum, but the No.6 University of Alberta Golden Bears' approach and preparation wasn't going to change against the winless University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat, Alberta dominating in a 3-0 straight-sets decision (25-15, 25-11,25-20), Friday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Senior left side hitter Alex McMullin led Alberta with 17 kills while recording three aces, third-year outside hitter Taryq Sani chipping in nine kills and a match-high four aces.
Third-year right side hitter Matt Aubrey led the visitors with 11 kills in the loss. Alberta improves to 14-5 in the conference standings while UBCO drops to 0-19.
"Our seniors were really dialled in," said Bears associate coach Brock Davidiuk. "I'd hear their vernacular during whistles and they just kept saying to keep going. They're wanting to do so well and they don't ever want to give up.
"It the best way to play and become a consistent competitor. If you get to go to (nationals) and you've prepared the same way every weekend, there's no difference. You're ready."
Alberta had 13 services aces in the win. Sani led with four, while third-year middle Jacob Deinum and McMullin each had three.
"We've focused so much in our training to be a more aggressive serving team and we saw that tonight," said Davidiuk.
"Alex upped his velocity, Jackson (Kennedy) has been serving way better, George (Hobern) has been such a force, and Taryq was absolutely dominant tonight."
UBCO got off to a good start in the opening set, but Alberta was coming off their "bye" week and once they got settled in, they started to take over the opening set from the Heat.
In the second set, the Golden Bears didn't let off the gas pedal. They jumped out to an early 9-1 lead and they were simply no match for UBC Okanagan in the second set as Deinum, Kennedy, and Hobern all had aces in the set.
"We controlled the floor from the service side of the game and we have to maintain that," said Sani. "It's a huge part of our game. We don't need to go for aces all the time, we just need it to be consistent, because we know we can rely on our block."
In the third set, the road team threw everything they had at Alberta and despite losing the third set, the Heat can take a lot of positives from it.
They battled back and forth and were able to gain multiple leads against the Golden Bears, but once Alberta took a 15-14 lead, the Heat wasn't able to overcome it.
It's been a tough season for UBC Okanagan head coach Brad Hudson, but he's in the first year of rebuilding the entire program.
"There's no bigger challenge in sport than changing culture in sport. It takes time and there are no short-term fixes here," said Hudson.
"I don't take the first two sets negatively either. We're not overwhelmed coming in here, but the reality is almost all of our starting team is either in their first and second year and we're trying to grow the program. Yet our young guys got some real good experience tonight."
Alberta and UBC Okanagan will play their second game of their weekend series Saturday at approximately 6:30 p.m. MT.