- BC Games
Heat serves up new Canada West volleyball season
The UBC Okanagan Heat volleyball squads kick off the new Canada West campaign this weekend against rival Thompson Rivers University.
The Heat women and Wolfpack will play Friday night at the Tournament Capital Centre in Kamloops, before hooking up again Saturday at 7 inside the UBCO gym in Kelowna.
The Heat men are home to TRU in Kelowna on Friday night at 7, then will travel to Kamloops on Saturday.
Here's a preview look at the Heat teams of 2013-14.
An impressive second season in Canada West saw the UBC Okanagan Heat women's volleyball team more than hold its own in the toughest conference in the nation.
Head coach Steve Manuel, with a year of CIS experience under his belt, took his team to the brink of the Canada West final four and a hosting berth in the post season.
Manuel improved his team by nine wins (15-7) and six spots (third) in the standings in a single year, and with the loss of just one starting player will once again set his sights on the post season.
With more depth than he has ever had before, Manuel's team heads into the season ranked No. 4 in the CIS.
"We have a great mix of veterans playing in their final year of eligibility to go along with the young talent that impressed everyone last year," said Manuel. "One expectation that we have for our program is to continually improve, that is no different now. We will look to compete the best we can in our extra tough conference, earn a spot in playoffs and see how far we can go into the post season."
Manuel will have two solid setters to orchestrate the offense this year as Chandler Proch returns to the lineup following major surgery and will be paired with CIS all-rookie team and Canada West all-star Emily Oxland. The second-year setter from North Vancouver set a conference record with 46 aces in her first year. Oxland won't be the only sophomore to have a key role for this team as Megan Festival and Kaitlynn Given both saw significant floor time in their freshman season and both played big roles over the summer for their respective provinces at the Canada Games.
Four other members of the Heat were members of that B.C. squad and will all be a big part of UBC Okanagan this year. Oxland was B.C.'s setter, Brianna Beamish a third-year outside hitter, and the third-year middle duo of Katie Wuttunee and Katy Klomps also played for their province over the summer.
Other key players are outside hitters Jill Festival and Myrte Schön, libero Lenai Schmidt and former UBC Okanagan Heat athlete of the year middle Kendra Wayling, whose versatility has been invaluable to the squad over the years.
Two years in the Canada West conference have provided two very different results for the Heat, who head into the 2013-2014 season looking to return to the form that saw them gain a playoff berth in their inaugural CIS season.
The Heat are looking at this season as a fresh start. Heat head coach Greg Poitras has overhauled his roster and has brought in a very impressive recruiting class for this season in hopes of a return to the playoffs.
"I would expect us to be in the middle of the conference this year, and that is not without a great deal of work and staying healthy," said Poitras. "To contend with the top teams we are going to need to be patient and continue to learn and get better."
Heading the Heat recruiting class is Lars Bornemann, the stocky 6-foot-3, 205-pound outside-hitter from Victoria. A standout at Oak Bay Secondary for several years, Bornemann was arguably the top recruit in his class this offseason in B.C.
Rounding out the recruiting class for the Heat are Kris McCrea and Chris Wilson.
The Heat will also welcome the return of outside-hitter and perennial all-star Nate Speijer, who enters his final year of eligibility after red-shirting in 2012-13.
"It is great to have our top scorer Nate back," Poitras said. "He will rewrite the UBCO
record books this year."
Coordinating the attack for the Heat will be sophomore Kristof Schlagintweit, who enters his second season as the setter for UBC Okanagan.
Other notable returning players for the Heat include libero Jeremy Fostvelt, outside hitter Alex Swiatlowski, and middles Joshua Harvey and Leo Schober. These four plus right-side Briercrest transfer Kyle Pankratz will all be presented with plenty of floor time and if any excel at the task they may drive the Heat back to the post-season.