Kellen Forrest; Dinos Communications
CALGARY – It was very much a playoff atmosphere at the Jack Simpson Gym Friday afternoon, as the UBC Thunderbirds defeated the University of Calgary Dinos in a five set thriller (22-25, 28-26, 18-25, 25-17, 15-12).
The two teams entered the match with just one game separating them in the standings and after this result, the Thunderbirds and Dinos now have identical 10-11 records. With the win, the Thunderbirds also clinched the final Canada West playoff spot up for grabs.
Calgary took the opening set due in large part to a 6-1 run with the teams tied at 10, which would allow them to take a 16-11 lead at the technical time-out. The Dinos would hold the lead for the remainder of the set, and off a Parker Siroishka kill, take the first set 25-22.
The second set was the tightest of all five, with the Thunderbirds taking a 28-26 win to even the match. Both teams had a number of service errors down the stretch, keeping the other team alive, but a Danny Aspenlieder kill for the Thunderbirds would finally end the set.
Calgary would open the third set with an incredible scramble, finished off by a Tim Taylor kill, and that would be all the momentum they needed to take the third set. The Dinos would lead from start to finish in the third, helped in large part by a huge set from Mitch Higgin, who had two huge kills down the stretch to help his team take the pivotal third 25-18.
The Thunderbirds were far from finished though, as huge performances from Calgary native Matt Neaves and Micheal Dowhaniuk would help the Thunderbirds take both of the next two sets by scores of 25-17 and 15-12. UBC made life very difficult for the Dinos offensively, as they were able to hold the Dinos to just a 0.192 hitting percentage throughout the match. The Thunderbirds also doubled the Dinos' block total, out-blocking the Dinos 14-7.
Offensively, the Dinos were led by Taylor, who had a game-high 22 kills. Higgin and Liam Kuppe would help Taylor out, contributing 8 and 10 kills respectively.
The Thunderbird trio of Neaves, Dowhaniuk and Aspenlieder were just too much for the Dinos on the afternoon, as they all contributed at least 15 kills. Neaves would lead the way with 21 kills of his own.
Although it was not the result his team was looking for, Taylor explained how there were still positives that the team could build off of heading into Saturday's match.
"I think we did some good things in a few sets," said the fourth-year Sydney, Australia native. "We showed that we can we can easily beat this team, we just slipped off with our execution."
The teams will square off once again tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. MT in the Jack Simpson Gym, with playoff seeding on the line.
Photo by David Moll