Aneesa Heatherington, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – After clinching a playoff berth the night before, the UBC Thunderbirds earned another straight sets (25-14, 25-20, 25-15) win over the Winnipeg Wesmen in their regular season home court finale at War Memorial Gym.
The two points keep the T-Birds within striking distance of hosting a first round playoff series as they sit four points back of the fourth-place Regina Cougars with two games remaining.
Each of UBC's four graduating seniors, Victoria Behie, Samantha Patko, Ciara Hanly, and Danae Shephard, were valuable contributors to the essential victory.
"It's bitter sweet," said UBC head coach Doug Reimer. "All four of these guys are really good students, teammates, and caring people so you're going to miss them both on and off the court. One of the things that makes my job special is being able to work with great young people when they first move away from home, then five years later they're women who have, almost without exception, persevered through a lot of things. You get to see them work through the tough times but also develop great bonds with their teammates and the university community."
Hanly had a whopping seven aces with just a single service error while adding five kills and three blocks. Kiera Van Ryk tallied a game-high 11 kills to go along with six digs and two aces. Behie added four kills, an ace, and three digs in two sets of action. Patko put up five assists with five digs, and Shephard totaled three kills and an ace.
Emma Parker led the Wesmen with 10 kills and eight digs, while Taylor Boughton totaled six kills and two digs in the loss.
Behie crushed her first kill to take an 8-5 lead in the first set while Hanly notched back-to-back kills for a 15-9 edge. Hanly continued a strong run of serves to a 19-9 cushion before Kely Warmington got the Wesmen back on the board with her first kill. Behie ended a lengthy rally for a set point before closing it out with another kill at 25-14.
Brynn Pasin entered the second set for an injured Behie and quickly recorded her first kill before Hanly added two more aces for an 8-3 advantage. Jessica Friesen stepped around for a kill to bring Winnipeg within two, but Van Ryk erased the Wesmen momentum with her second thunderous ace and propelled UBC to a 12-7 lead. Winnipeg kept pace in the middle portion of the set and Boughton made it a one-point game at 15-14. Olivia Furlan and Jayde Robertsen maintained the T-Bird lead with a pair of massive blocks as UBC's defence demonstrated their prowess. Pasin earned a set point at 24-2 and teamed up with Hanly to win it on a block at 25-20.
Hanly's serve proved dominant in the third set as well with an impressive eight-point run to turn an early deficit into a 9-4 lead. Parker then cranked a kill for Winnipeg down the line but Tessa Davis answered right back with one of her five kills at 11-6. The Thunderbirds carried their strong execution through to a set point from Siobahn Finan at 24-14 before Pasin punctuated the victory with her sixth kill at 25-15.
UBC will be on the road against the second-place Calgary Dinos next weekend to close out the regular season schedule and determine their playoff positioning.
"These two wins are actually really important because Regina keeps winning," said Reimer. "We need to win in Calgary, but it'll be a tough first round matchup whether it's here or on the road, and we'd rather be here."
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds