The UBC Okanagan Heat didn’t reach their ultimate goal of reaching the CIS national women’s volleyball championship this weekend in Regina.
Still, it was another season of huge strides forward for coach Steve Manuel’s program.
The Heat finished up in fourth place at the Canada West Final Four playoffs over the weekend, after losing the bronze medal match 3-1 to Trinity Western on Saturday.
After winning the first set 25-18, the Heat couldn’t keep their foot on the gas as Spartans rallied back to win the next three sets—25-16, 26-24, 25-14.
“It was really close, and we battled well,” said Manuel. “We just couldn’t keep up the consistency for long enough.”
Megan Festival had 15 kills and eight digs against TWU, while Breanna Beamish had 11 kills for a Canada West Final Four tournament total of 24. Lenai Schmidt playing in the final game of her career, had 15 of the Heat’s 45 total digs.
A night earlier, UBCO lost by the same 3-1 score to the defending champion UBC Thunderbirds in the semifinal.
After narrowly missing the playoffs in their first season of CIS competition (2011-12), the Heat reached the post-season in only their second campaign. Then this season, just their third in the Canada West conference, UBCO won its first conference playoff series ever, defeating the Brandon Bobcats.
Despite a disappointing conclusion to the season, Manuel is thrilled with the progress the Heat program continues to make.
“We have done better in our first three years in the CIS than any one in the history of the league,” Manuel said. “We are extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished, and we can believe we can do more and we will do more.
“I believe what we’ve done so far, I think, has been, spectacular…if I can say that word. From our fight, consistency, and how we’ve built this program in just a short time in this league.”
And with just three players graduating from the program—Schmidt, Jill Festival and Kendra Wayling—Manuel can’t help but be excited about the UBCO program’s future.
“Look out everyone, we’re coming back strong next year.”
In just three years of Canada West competition, the Heat have already won over half of their conference games. Saturday’s opponent, the Spartans, joined Canada West in 1999 and did not reach the .500 mark until this season.