Aneesa Heatherington/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – In front of a boisterous school-day crowd filled with 1,542 screaming fans, the UBC Thunderbirds (5-2) fell in straight sets (25-23, 25-18, 25-12) to the Trinity Western Spartans (6-1) at War Memorial Gym.
Sophie Carpenter led the Spartans, ranked fourth in U Sports women's volleyball, with 14 kills and four service aces. Nikki Cornwall also had four aces to go along with team highs in assists (30) and digs (eight). Ashtyn McKenzie had five blocks for the visitors. Trinity Western had 14 service aces in all on Friday afternoon.
UBC left side hitter Danielle Brisebois paced the home offence with eight kills. Despite the loss, she appreciated the enthusiastic crowd.
"I wish all our games were like this, it's so awesome to have so many people come watch. I think that the energy they brought really helped."
'Birds were up 12-9 off a Siobhan Finan kill in the first, but the lead slipped away as Trinity Western's Carpentier smacked a put-back kill to tie it at 12-12. A Finan deep tip caught the Spartans off guard, and UBC retook lead at 13-12.
As the Spartans pulled ahead, Brisebois unloaded on a kill that was dug into the crowd to pull the T-Birds back within two at 18-16.
Maggie Li tapped home a sneaky tip from the pike to keep UBC alive down 23-21, and the T-Birds clawed back after a Victoria Behie kill to stay in the set down 23-24. On their third set point, the Spartans converted on an Elizabeth Wendel kill to take the game 25-23.
In the second, Trinity Western used 5-0 and 5-1 runs to build a 17-10 lead. The first surge saw two aces from McKenzie while Carpentier knocked down three kills in the latter. UBC trailed by at least six the rest of the way.
Down set point, Li and Gentile came up with a huge block to make it 24-18, but Trinity Western finished a back row kill to bring the Spartans within a set of the win.
Brisebois and Emily Cicon kicked off the third with a block, and Cicon smacked home her only kill of the match to tie it up at 3-3. The 'Birds won the next three points to go up 6-3, but the visitors were dominant the rest of the way, winning 22 of the next 28 points to ease to a 25-12 victory to shutout the Thunderbirds in straight sets.
Siobhan Finan had six digs for UBC, now 5-2 in Canada West league play. Gentile had 16 assists.
Brisebois recognized the steady pressure from the Spartans from start to finish.
"I felt that they did a good job staying consistent throughout the match, and took advantage when we had our missteps in the game."
UBC head coach Doug Reimer echoed his captain's thoughts, and felt his team didn't perform at their best.
"While Trinity is a good team, there were so many balls that we lacked. In the first half of the match, we were our own worst enemy in terms of basic ball control and execution on situations that weren't that hard. Then we got stuck in rotations in the third set and it was over. Overall, execution has got to be better ability to play well for a long period of time. There's some work to do, no doubt about it."
After playing with a vocal home-court advantage, coach Reimer's T-Birds will head to Langley for a rematch on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.
"It's great to play in front of a big crowd and expose young kids to the game, and so it's a little different rhythm than normal. Not just home-and-home, but midday games. We have been better Day 2 so let's hope that trend continues."
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds