Sizzling first semester for Heat women
Over the last three weeks of the regular season, no team in CIS women's volleyball was more efficient than the UBC Okanagan Heat.
Steve Manuel's squad won six straight matches by 3-0 sweeps—a string of 18 consecutive sets—and is now 10-2 heading into the Canada West semester break.
Currently in second place in the conference and ranked among the top schools in the country, the Heat has exceeded even their head coach's expectations.
"I'm just so happy with the way the team is playing and the progress they're making each week," said Manuel, in his 13th season as the program's head coach. "To be sitting alone in second in Canada West, we couldn't be much happier. We're well ahead of where we thought we'd be."
In their third season of CIS competition, the Heat's only two losses came at the hands of the Bobcats (9-3) early last month in Brandon.
Manuel points to team chemistry as the key ingredient to the Heat's success.
"It's amazing how quickly this team has gelled, there's been unbelievable group cohesion," he said. "As a unit, this is as good as a team as we've had. It's been a pleasure to coach them."
While a red-hot first semester has been very much a team effort, Manuel said a couple of individuals, in particular, have been leading the charge for UBCO: fifth-year libero Lenai Schmidt; and middle Katy Klomps, who leads Canada West in hitting percentage and is second in blocks.
"Lenai has really come into her own this season, she's raised her game to a new level and is making players around her better," Manuel said. "Katy has been absolutely dominant in the middle—hitting, blocking and on service. Along with Katie Wuttunee, we have as good a middles as there are in the country."
As well as the first half has gone, Manuel knows the Heat will face challenges early in 2014 with matches to come against perennial powers UBC (12-0) and Trinity Western (8-4).
Still, the head coach likes his team's situation with 10 matches remaining in the regular campaign.
"The schedule will be tougher, we'll have more matches against the top five or six teams," said Manuel. "In some ways, our record might be a little artificial in that we played quite a few teams with poorer records. What I like is the fact that we did well against teams we needed to, teams we felt we had to beat. It's put us in a great position going forward, and now we can look at getting into the playoffs, winning a couple of rounds and getting to nationals in Regina."
After Christmas, the Heat will re-tune for the second portion of the schedule with an exhibition tournament in Barbados.
Both the UBCO women and men (2-10) return to Canada West action Jan. 10 in Kelowna when they host the UBC Thunderbird