Matt Johnson, Huskie Athletics
SASKATOON – The University of Saskatchewan women's volleyball team concluded the 2018 calendar year with an impressive win on their home floor as they defeated the UBC Okanagan Heat 3-2 (25-15, 25-20, 20-25, 18-25, 15-10) at Ron and Jane Graham Centre Court at the PAC on Saturday, Dec. 1.
"It was a huge weekend. It was make or break for our season and coming into this weekend there was lots of pressure, and I thought the girls handled it really well," said Huskies head coach Mark Dodds. "It's nice to head into the Christmas break with some good feelings, and now we can train hard and get ready to make a push in the second half."
For the second straight night, the Heat were more efficient than the Huskies but were unable to come away with the victory. The visitors finished with a .248 hitting percentage compared to the home team's .215 clip. However, Saskatchewan recorded twice as many service aces, with 12 compared to the visitors six, and committed only eight serve errors versus UBC Okanagan's 15.
Emily Koshinsky paced the Huskies attack as she finished with 15 kills on the afternoon, to go along with a game-high four service aces. Brooke Listwin, Regan Wiebe and Jessica Zacharias also contributed four service aces. Saskatchewan libero Shae Beaulieu finished with a game-high 23 digs,
Aidan Lea, Sydney Grills, and Ann Richards each recorded double-digit kills for the Heat, with Lea leading the way with 16. Richards led the Heat with three service aces and 15 digs.
The win allowed Saskatchewan to pick up back-to-back wins, moving them to 4-8 on the season.
While the loss slid UBC Okanagan to 2-10 in Canada West play in 2018-19.
A back and forth first set saw the Huskies and Heat knotted up throughout the early part of the set. However, with Saskatchewan trailing by a score of 11-9. The Huskies rattled off nine consecutive points to give them an 18-11 lead, largely thanks to three kills from Annala. The Huskies extended their lead to 24-15, off the back of an Alexandra Frank kill which was set up by Analla, giving the Huskies a set point opportunity.
Hannah Toews, who was making her return for the floor for her first match in almost two years, converted a beautiful winner neatly over the top of the net on her very first touch of the game to give her team the win in the opening set, 25-15.
"That was a pretty special moment, I think she was close to 700 days since her last on-court volleyball match and to do it home in an elite match, I'm sure she is buzzing right now," said Dodds.
Saskatchewan got out to an early 8-4 lead in the second set, with Koshinsky leading the way for the home team with two kills, while Wiebe added a service ace to go along with a kill. The Huskies continued to build upon their momentum, and held a 24-16 after a 4-0 run.
However, the Heat battled back to reel off four consecutive points of their own, with Bussard and Taylor-Parks chipping in kills for the visitors. Listwin and Koshinsky put an end to that run by standing strong as Lea went up for the smash, they stuffed UBC Okanagan's 2018 All-Canadian middle and sealed the second set for the home side, 25-20.
With the third set tied 10-10, the Heat scored six consecutive points to take a 16-10 lead as they looked to pick up their first set of the afternoon. Sydney Grills and Lea were able to stuff Listwin to give UBC Okanagan a 24-16 lead, but Saskatchewan was able to stave off defeat momentarily.
The Huskies went on a run of their own to make the score 24-20 thanks to a Koshinsky service ace and Listwin kill, but that was as close as they would come. Lea provided a thundering smash down that painted the line which brought the Heat back within striking distance in the match with a 25-20 victory in the third set.
UBC Okanagan was in control for the majority of the fourth set and took a commanding lead late. Back-to-back kills from Grills and Livingston, to go along with a fantastic serve from Richards which narrowly nicked the net and dropped untouched for the service ace made the score 22-17 for the visitors. Samantha Gagnon's booming service ace closed out the set in strong fashion, as the Heat continued their comeback attempt in the matinee marathon.
With the game on the line in the fifth and final set, UBC Okanagan was unable to continue their pace, as their hitting percentage fell to .158 in the frame. Listwin and Annalla were able to shut down Lea which extended the Huskies lead to five. With the score at 14-10 in favor of Saskatchewan, a Richards service error sealed the victory for the home side as they were able to pick up two straight wins over UBC Okanagan.
After the holiday break, the Huskies will travel east to Winnipeg to take on the Wesmen at the Duckworth Centre. Meanwhile, the Heat will play host to the Calgary Dinos in Kelowna on Jan. 4 and 5.