Sizzling CIS debuts for Heat volleyball
If there was any question of whether UBC Okanagan's volleyball programs would be prepared for their foray into Canadian Interuniversity Sport competition, then any such concerns have been emphatically laid to rest.
The Heat men's squad came flying out of the gate in the school's inaugural weekend of Canada West action with a sweep of the University of Winnipeg at the UBCO gym, while the Heat women's team earned a split of their two matches with the Wesmen.
On opening night Friday, in front of a boisterous hometown audience, the Heat men showed few signs of jitters with a solid 3-1 victory (19-25, 25-21, 30-28, 25-20) over Winnipeg.
“I think that (home crowd) was huge for us,” said Heat coach Greg Poitras. “We’ve got a lot of things that are sort of going against us with being a new team, being a former college team. We needed more support and that was a huge factor in trying to get the Wesmen rattled on the service line.”
Heat veteran Nate Speijer was virtually unstoppable with 28 kills, while Riley McFarland added 13 kills and 11 digs.
On Saturday, the Heat completed the sweep with a another 3-1 win over the Wesmen (25-21, 21-25, 25-15, 26-24) .
McFarland capped a stellar weekend with 13 kills, with Speijer hitting 16 with a 27 per cent success rate.
Winning back-to-back matches in one weekend over the same opponent in Canada West competition is a tall order for any team, making the 2-0 start a very satisfying result for coach Poitras.
"Its typical of this league for the team that loses the first night to come out stronger the second night, we faced a lot of adversity because of that," said Poitras. “Won or lost we learned a lot about ourselves and the competition we will be facing, but I'm pretty happy being 2-0 this early in the season."
The Heat will battle the UBC Thunderbirds this weekend at the Kelowna campus gym, with Friday and Saturday matches beginning at 8 p.m.
The two-time Canadian collegiate champions UBC Okanagan women's team wasted little time in showing they belonged a level higher in the CIS, taking down the University of Winnipeg on opening night.
In the first ever Canada West regular season match played in Kelowna, the Heat came from behind in three different sets in beating the Wesmen 3-1 (25-20, 26-24, 25-18, 26-24).
All-Canadian and four year vet Alex Basso delivered in the clutch with 14 kills in the match, Myrte Schön had 10 kills and 14 digs, while Jill Festival contributed with 10 kills and 11 digs.
Heat coach Steve Manuel saw the win as a complete team effort.
“We had so many players that stepped up and did great things at great times," said Heat coach Steve Manuel. "To the people that were out there the whole time, and to the four or five players that came off the bench in key situations in that last set and got us through, wow.”
On Saturday, the Heat looked well on their way to an opening weekend sweep winning the first two games, but Winnipeg battled back for a hard-fought five set win (21-25, 20-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-7).
"We came out and played outstanding for the better part of the match, and we just couldn't keep that momentum," said Manuel. "Winnipeg's a very good team, sixth or seventh in the country, but I'm very happy with my team and their efforts tonight."
Schön paced the Heat attack with 14 kills, while Basso added 13.
UBC Okanagan will be put to the set this weekend in Canada West action when the Heat hosts the country's top team, the UBC Thunderbirds.
Matches start both Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m.