Aneesa Heatherington/UBC Thunderbirds
The UBC Thunderbirds' (3-4) sixty kills Friday evening were enough to overpower the Manitoba Bisons (2-3) for their first home victory, 3-1 (25-15, 24-26, 25-14, 25-22) at War Memorial Gym.
"I think the ability to push through in that fourth set, so it doesn't go to five, is really important," said UBC Head Coach Doug Reimer. "It may not have been perfect and pretty, but frankly we need to build our belief that we're going to take of our ability to finish sets and win matches. There's a lot of potential in this group and we need to harness that. We need to keep being diligent and disciplined in terms of reducing our unforced errors, but not backing off."
Kiera Van Ryk notched 18 kills and a whopping 8 aces with 3 blocks, while Olivia Furlan finished with 43 assists to go along with 6 kills and 3 aces. Fifth-year libero Samantha Patko made her return to the Thunderbird lineup by contributing 18 digs and a strong veteran presence in the hard-fought victory.
"Sam didn't think she was going to play her fifth year," said Coach Reimer. "Without question her ability to read the game just adds a ton to the court. I think she set a great tone - there were a lot of rallies that were extended because of Sam's efforts."
UBC lept out to a thunderous 16-6 lead at the technical timeout and demonstrated some stellar defending to go along with their potent attack throughout the opening set. Van Ryk's fifth kill of the match set up a set point up 24-15, which they converted on a Bison miscommunication.
Van Ryk dropped an ace for an early 5-2 advantage in the second, and Jayde Robertson hit her first of three aces to make it 10-4. Manitoba clawed back and took advantage of T-Bird errors to get within one at 11-10 before tying it at 14-14 with a block. Victoria Behie stood tall for her second block of the match for a 16-14 edge, but the Bisons fought for a set point up 25-24 and took the second, 26-24, on a T-Bird attacking error.
A pair of Furlan aces put the 'Birds up 8-4 in the third and Van Ryk made it 14-7 with her sixth ace. Courtney Hillier served up back-to-back aces for a 22-10 advantage and Denae Shepard's first kill gave UBC a set point that Van Ryk converted to take it 25-14.
Tessa Davis' seventh kill of the match knotted it up at 8-8 as a tight fourth saw the Thunderbirds lead 16-14 at the technical timeout. There was little separating the two teams in the final set until a Davis kill gave the home team a 23-21 lead, and a set point on a Bison attack error. Davis then closed out the match, 25-22, on her eleventh kill.
Laura Findlay led the Bisons with 12 kills, and Jocelyn Koswin added 11 kills with a team-high 12.5 points in the loss.
"We didn't pass the ball very well and we paid the price for it," admitted Manitoba Head Coach Ken Bentley. "We got close and had chances, but our serve-receive let us down. Obviously I liked their fight, and in the fourth set we had a chance...we made a couple of poor hitting errors that cost us that set. We had a really good opportunity to get to the fifth and our side let us down."
"We need to make adjustments and be respectful of a team on the second night - we learned that as recently as last weekend," said UBC Coach Reimer. "The challenge is for us to put a second match together...that, plus a little more."
The two teams will square off in a rematch on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. (PST) inside War Memorial Gym.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds