Jason Hills, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON — You can make it eight straight sweeps over the University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat for the No.6 University of Alberta Golden Bears. Alberta got a good look at their present and future in a 3-0 victory (25-16, 25-20, 25-20) over the Heat, Saturday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Third-year outside hitter Taryq Sani led Alberta with 19 kills and seven digs, while sophomore outside hitter Max Heppell led UBC Okanagan with nine kills in the loss.
Alberta improves to 15-5 in the Canada West conference, while the Heat is still searching for their first win of the season, falling to 0-20.
"We knew they'd be tricky to prepare for because they could throw a lot of different looks at us, and it was important for us to keep it simple," said Golden Bears associate coach Brock Davidiuk. "I thought we adapted well to anything that they threw at us."
On a night when Alberta honoured their graduating seniors, the team got another workmanlike and all-out performance from senior left-side hitter Alex McMullin, who played the role of floor general, tallying 10 kills and becoming just the fifth player in Golden Bear history to record 1,000 career conference kills (1,003).
But the Bears also got a big performance from freshman left-side hitter Braedon Friesen, who may follow in McMullin's footsteps next year. Friesen chipped in with seven kills and played a big part in the second-set win where he recorded six of his seven kills.
"Braedon has done really well for us as a rookie. He's a spark plug and he's defined himself into that role and we've been really impressed with him in his first year," said Davidiuk.
"They have a very similar makeup and we want (Friesen) to learn from Alex and I think he's taken on that challenge well and he's got so much potential for us now and down the line."
UBC Okanagan put together a much stronger performance despite being swept. They kept within striking distance of the Golden Bears attack and after a rough opening-set loss, they held their own in the final two sets, especially in the second set where they tied the Bears late three times, but couldn't pull away.
"I don't feel any more positive or negative about the results than I did yesterday," said Heat head coach Brad Hudson.
"I like our group a lot. We have a lot of kids who work hard and care, and just because the outcome isn't what you want, it doesn't devalue your commitment level to the process.
"Today I thought we were a little more consistent in all phases and we started to get those breaks a little bit."
In the third set, it turned into the Sani show as the high-flying power hitter had nine of his 19 kills to help Alberta lead the entire third set. His power was on display with three kills on the final four Bears points. Sani was able to do what he does best. Jump high and hit hard.
"When you get down to 20-20 or 20-19, it comes down to making plays and they have someone like Taryq who is capable of doing exceptional things at important times," said Hudson.
"It's almost like a cheat code and him and Alex were able to make some exceptional plays when they needed them most."
Alberta finishes their Canada West regular season in Winnipeg next weekend, while the Heat wrap up their season at home against Thompson Rivers in Kelowna on February 15-16.