No longer the new kids on the block, expect battle-hardened and more confident UBC Okanagan volleyball teams to take to the court for the start of the 2012-13 Canadian Interuniversity Sport campaign.
The Heat men and women open their second Canada West season this weekend with a home-and-home set against the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack.
The two schools will tip off the season Friday night in Kamloops, then will return to Kelowna for matches Saturday at UBCO. In Kelowna, the women play at 5 p.m., with the men’s game to follow at 7 p.m.
For Greg Poitras and the men’s squad, the Heat will be looking to build off a hugely successful inaugural season in Canada West as UBCO surprised the rest of the conference by earning a playoff spot.
Led by all-star and fifth-year power hitter Nate Speijer, Poitras isn’t putting an emphasis on wins and losses, but rather the concept of improving with each week.
“Although it would be nice, we’re not necessarily focusing on improving our record as much as we’re focusing on the process of how we get there,” said Poitras, whose squad went 8-12. “If we improve, then good things will happen. We have a deeper team, our training is better and we think we’ve prepared well for the season.”
Along with Speijer, the Heat will look for veteran leadership this season from veteran fifth-years Brett Uniat, Riley McFarland and Jeremy Kler, and fourth-year Greg Niemansverdriet.
Meanwhile, Steve Manuel and the women’s team will be looking to improve on last season’s 6-14 record.
With just one player having graduated and a solid corps of young recruits, the Heat fully expects to challenge for a playoff berth (top seven) come the spring of 2013.
“We were somewhat happy with how our first season went, it’s the best a first-year team has ever done on the women’s side but we aren’t satisfied with that,” Manuel said. “With the exception of one player, everybody is back and we have added depth at every position. We think we have a nice core developing now and a nice one for the future. We expect to be very competitive.”
Veteran leadership on the Heat will come this year from the likes of Alex Basso, Kendra Wayling, Jill Festival and Myrte Schon.