Aaron Martin/UBC Thunderbirds
By Aaron Martin
VANCOUVER – Freshman outside hitter Kiera Van Ryk (14 kills, 12 digs, and three aces) and sophomore setter/outside hitter Olivia Furlan (10 kills, 18 digs, and three aces) led the offensive output on Thursday night, as the UBC Thunderbirds women's volleyball team (4-1) upended the Thompson Rivers WolfPack (2-3) at War Memorial Gym.
Yevgeniya Nyukhalova led TRU with 18 kills, while Rachel Windhorst had 13. Anastasiya Muzyka had 24 assists for the visitors, while Kendra Finch had 26 digs.
The first two sets saw the 'Birds put themselves in holes as big as three and six points, respectively. In the opening frame, a block by Gabrielle Attieh put UBC 22-20 to get TRU head coach Chad Grimm to call a timeout. Grimm was able to regroup his team, which won four straight points - including kills by Finch and Windhorst, and a block by Avery Pottle - out of the break to go up 24-22. Unfortunately for the 'Pack, a terrific 3-0 UBC run, with two Furlan kills bookending a Van Ryk block, pulled the 'Birds from the fire.
Down 14-8 at one point in the second frame after a host of errors both in the attack and on serve, the 'Birds just missed out making a spectacular comeback. After UBC cut the deficit to just one point, at 23-22 for Thompson Rivers, Muzyka and Nyukhalova notched two kills in the set's final three points to equalize at 1-1 apiece for the visitors
Late in the third frame, the 'Birds found themselves in a too-familiar spot – behind. With Thompson Rivers holding a slim 18-16 advantage, Attieh and Van Ryk pulled UBC even with a pair of back-to-back kills. UBC took a 20-19 lead shortly after and closed strong, as a Furlan dagger capped a 5-1 run for the hosts that also saw Attieh and Alessandra Gentile pick up aces, and Van Ryk add to her kill count.
"You have to keep putting pressure, keep trying to expose weaknesses in other teams, and more iimportantly, never let yourself believe that you're out of a set," said Reimer. "Coming back to battle, and win two of the first three, is obviously much better than the alternative, but the ultimate goal is consistency of play, and that's something we're always striving for."
The 'Birds needed no comeback in the fourth stanza – tied 13-13, two Van Ryk aces sparked a 6-0 run for the home side, and with excellent ball movement on the attack, UBC looked to end the contest. A quick burst brought TRU within three at 20-17 thanks to kills by Nyukhalova and Finch with a block by Muzyka in between.
Van Ryk's response was back-to-back kills, which were followed up by two aces and a third brilliant serve from Furlan to give UBC the win.
"It wasn't exactly the game we wanted to play, but we got a lot better, a lot more focused, as the game went on," said Reimer. "Credit to Thompson Rivers, they played us tough, but we need to play more like we did late – we can't afford to be making mistakes like we did in the early going."
The 'Birds will look to rectify those mistakes on Friday, as they will face the same WolfPack again at War Memorial gym, with the first serve also set for 6 p.m.
PHOTO: Wilson Wong/UBC Thunderbirds