(By University of Regina Sports Information)
REGINA – A big run by the UBC Thunderbirds in the deciding set proved to be the difference as the visitors took a five-set victory over the Regina Cougars on Thursday night in the opening match of a best-of-three Canada West quarter-final series at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport.
UBC reeled off eight straight points with Tessa Davis serving, a run which featured three Ciara Hanly kills and turned what had been a slim 5-4 edge for the Thunderbirds into a commanding 13-4 lead. The Cougars tried to recover and got three straight points of their own but it was too little, too late and back-to-back kills by Hanly and Kiera Van Ryk clinched the match for UBC.
"In some ways it looked like the first playoff game in the sense that both teams probably felt they could have taken more control when they had leads, but on the flip side neither team was backing down at all," UBC head coach Doug Reimer said. "There was lots of high-level play on both sides tonight."
Van Ryk led all players offensively with 21 kills and hit .226 during the match, while Hanly and Davis both chipped in with 11 kills for UBC. Jayde Robertson and Victoria Behie both added seven kills, while Robertson had a match-leading eight blocks and libero Samantha Patko finished with 18 digs. Van Ryk and Davis had 11 and 10 digs, respectively, to notch a double-double while setter Olivia Furlan also had one with 41 assists and 13 digs.
Furlan also had a match-high five service aces.
For the Cougars, Taylor Ungar registered 29 digs for the second consecutive match and also had nine assists to finish just short of a rare libero double-double. Jessica Lerminiaux had 16 kills and 13 digs, Ashlee Sandiford had 13 kills and 15 digs, and Diana Lumbala had 12 kills while hitting for a team-best .235 hitting percentage. Satomi Togawa finished with 41 assists and 12 digs.
The match started out in favour of the Cougars, as the home side scored each of the last four points with each of the last three coming on Lumbala kills. But UBC answered Regina's 25-22 win in the first set with a 25-22 win of its own in the second, and the Thunderbirds took the lead in the match after a Van Ryk kill on their third attempt at set point in the third gave them a 27-25 win.
The Cougars looked to be heading into the deciding set with momentum after scoring each of the final four points in their 25-23 fourth-set win, but it was all UBC after a Lumbala kill cut the Thunderbirds advantage to 5-4. Besides the three Hanly kills, UBC also got a pair of kills by Behie and an ace by Davis as part of the 8-0 run that essentially sealed the win for the Thunderbirds.
The Cougars actually had the edge in several statistical categories, including hitting percentage (.169 to .142), blocks (13 to 12), and digs (80-77). But UBC had a big 10-3 advantage in service aces, and the Thunderbirds hit .280 in that final set compared to Regina's zero hitting percentage.
The two teams will meet again on Friday at the CKHS. Match time is set for 7:00 PM.