Aneesa Heatherington, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – A colourful Pride Night crowd saw the UBC Thunderbirds (7-5) earn their fourth straight victory and first home series sweep of the season, in a straight sets (25-15, 25-21, 25-18) win over the Saskatchewan Huskies (2-8) at War Memorial Gym Saturday night.
"First set we came out of the gate flying," said UBC head coach Doug Reimer, after his team closed out their 2018 schedule on a positive note. "It got a little sloppier after that, especially in the second set, but it was a good set to show composure. I don't think earlier in the season we would've won that second set, so I think that's a big step for our team, to win those when you're having to battle back."
First-year T-Bird Brynn Pasin had an impressive 10 kill, 10 dig, three ace performance off the bench, and U SPORTS leading attacker Kiera Van Ryk continued her tear with 20 kills and a monster .621 hitting percentage.
Emily Koshinsky led the Huskies with 11 kills and a service ace, while setter Averie Allard tallied 16 assists and a team-high seven digs.
The home squad would assert their dominance early, leading 16-8 into the first technical timeout, and a Saskatchewan attack error gave the T-Birds their first set point at 24-13. Van Ryk converted with her eighth kill for a 25-15 set win. Koshinsky cranked her second and third kills of the match to open the second set and dropped an ace for a 5-1 advantage. The Huskies led by as many as eight points on a run of T-Bird errors before Pasin catalyzed a comeback to make it a three-point deficit down 13-10.
Another Koshinsky kill made it 16-11 Saskatchewan at the technical timeout, but an ace by Kacey Jost eventually tied it at 17-17. Danae Shephard's solo block evened it up again at 21-21, before Van Ryk helped the 'Birds earn the second set on back-to-back kills.
In addition to the celebration of inclusivity on Pride Night, longtime women's sports advocate Sandy Silver awarded rookie setter Kayla Oxland along with Van Ryk the Sandy Silver Scholarship between the second and third sets.
Angela Lavoie gave the Huskies a short-lived lead at 6-5 in a tight third set that saw both teams trade blows until a Van Ryk off-speed tip put the 'Birds up 18-16. The Thunderbirds would maintain the lead through to a 25-18 win.
"I think we're all ready for a break," admitted Reimer following the match. "It's been a pretty long fall, and there's a lot of individual and team things we can work on, while also respecting the academic demands this time of year. I think it'll be nice to not have to prepare for a team. After a bit of a rough start and some longer road trips it's nice to finish with these four wins above .500. It's really important in our close league that could go in a lot of different ways."
UBC will resume Canada West competition on January 4 and 5 in Calgary against Mt. Royal, while the Huskies are back at it next weekend to host UBCO.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds