‘Birds use depth to leapfrog Heat in Canada West standings

‘Birds use depth to leapfrog Heat in Canada West standings

Aneesa Heatherington/UBC Thunderbirds

VANCOUVER - The UBC Thunderbirds earned a two-game sweep over their division foes after topping the UBC Okanagan Heat 3-1 (25-18, 20-25, 25-17, 25-15) and climbing into third in the Canada West with a 9-3 record.

The 'Birds were paced by the great offence of Danielle Brisebois (16 kills) and the stellar defence of Samantha Patko (12 digs).

The Heat were led by Siobhan Fitzpatrick, who had nine kills and 12 digs while Michelle Jakszuk threw up four blocks.

Juliana Kaufmanis ace tied it up 3-3 in the first set before 
Maggie Li smacked a put-back kill to take an early lead. Brisebois disguised a tip down the line as the Thunderbirds pulled ahead 18-14. Kaufamanis launched a hit off the block to give UBC a set point, which they converted to take the first 25-18.

Li stepped up to serve in the second set and showed her power with two straight aces to open up a two-point lead at 14-12. But UBCO's Emily Oxland and Kaitlynn Given responded with a combination of service aces and pinpoint kills to push the Heat ahead 19-14. A missed T-Bird block gave the Heat a set point, and they took advantage to win the second 25-20.

Laura MacTaggart drew into the lineup in the third and made her presence felt with a kill to widen the UBC lead at 8-5. MacTaggart came through with an overpowering kill from the pike at 13-9, and Alexandra Gentile built on the momentum with a big block and two strong serves to make it 16-12. The T-Birds defence showed off their tenacity on a lengthy rally at 21-17 that UBC carried to a 25-17 third set victory.

The fourth set started off in UBC's favour, and they held the lead from start to finish. UBC claimed the victory on a Li kill at 25-15, as the fourth-year middle was a standout with seven kills, five aces and five blocks in the win.

Li's all-around talent impressed UBC head coach Doug Reimer.

"Maggie was a point-scoring machine out there. Serving, attacking, and blocking – its not often you see middles being able to do that much. This depth is really going to help us, we can give a lot of different looks."

MacTaggart was back with a vengeance after eight months sidelined with an injury, and made an impact with seven kills and five digs.

"This is a really exciting semester," said the third-year hitter. "We also have Juliana Kaufmanis back so the energy is great on court and it was a great way to start 2017. Everybody brought a little something extra to the game today – there was no one person running the show."

Brisebois found her groove in the fourth, and finished with 15 kills and four digs.

Next up for the 'Birds is a trip to Manitoba to face the 6-6 Bisons on Friday and Saturday. UBC Okanagan will visit Winnipeg for a two-game set against the Wesmen next weekend.

IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds