Aneesa Heatherington, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER - The UBC Thunderbirds (0-2) showed flashes of brilliance in their second match of the season, but ultimately fell 3-1 (20-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-23) to the University of Alberta Pandas (2-0) at War Memorial Gym Saturday night.
"We competed harder and executed better for portions of the match," said UBC head coach Doug Reimer on his team's improvement after a tough straight-sets loss to the Pandas the night before. "Last night we had way too many unforced errors so it was nice to see us trend in the right direction. I think Alberta is a really strong team, and they pushed us to be better. In that fourth set I was happy with how we fought back and hung in there. It's important to keep in mind that it is week one, we have to get a lot more steady and establish roles."
Kiera Van Ryk led the T-Bird attack with 18 kills and also contributed a team-high 12 digs. Olivia Furlan and Jayde Robertson put up eight kills each, while Furlan added 37 assists, 10 digs and three blocks.
"I thought that Kiera had a very good bounce back after struggling yesterday," said Reimer. "I think we're getting good offensive production from our middles, which is encouraging, and overall this weekend Olivia did a good job. There are a lot of bright spots, it's just being able to put it consistently together against good teams."
Van Ryk capped a long rally early with her first kill of the match for a narrow 2-1 lead and later served three straight points for a 10-7 advantage. Victoria Behie extend the lead with a well-placed tip at 16-12. The 'Birds demonstrated their strength both defensively and on attack as they took the opening set on a Furlan tip, 25-20.
UBC continued to put the pressure on the visiting Pandas early in the second set as Tessa Davis came up with a big block and a kill for an early advantage. Furlan then evened it up at 19-19 on a blistering kill, but the Pandas pulled away to win the second set 25-22.
Van Ryk punctuated another lengthy rally in the third set to give the home squad a 4-2 edge but Alberta rallied to take a 15-12 lead and held it for a 25-18 win.
The Thunderbirds came out swinging in a tight fourth set that saw Alberta lead 16-14 at the technical timeout. Erin Corbett served up back-to-back aces for the Pandas to make it 22-16, before Kory White smacked home her 20th kill for a match point. Furlan and Davis teamed up for a crucial block to keep their hopes alive, but Alberta closed out the set 25-23.
White's 20 kills were a team-high, as she also earned 11 digs and an ace. Corbett earned three aces in the victory and Julia Zonneveld put up eight kills with two aces.
"I was happy with how we dealt with what UBC brought tonight," said Alberta head coach Laurie Eisler. "It was totally different than yesterday and kind of got us back on our heels a bit in the first, but we responded well after that. This is a really tough place to get two wins so we're thrilled. It doesn't get any easier in the Canada West so we just have to enjoy this now, then get on that plane and start focusing on the next opponent."
The Pandas are back in action on October 26th against Mount Royal, while the Thunderbirds will travel to Kamloops to face Thompson Rivers University next weekend.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds