The defending national bronze medalist UBC Okanagan Heat will serve up the new Canada West women’s volleyball season as the No. 3-ranked team in the country.
Steve Manuel’s squad will open the 2016-17 campaign at home this weekend against the No. 9 Brandon Bobcats.
Game time Friday at the Kelowna campus gym is 5 p.m., with the second match to go at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
With the graduation of players such as Katy Klomps, Katie Wuttunee, Breanna Beamish, Kailin Jones and Chandler Proch, the Heat have some big shoes to fill this season.
But with veteran experience coming from the likes of returnees Kaitlynn Given, Emily Oxland, Michelle Jakszuk, Erin Drew and Siobhan Fitzpatrick leading the way, Manuel likes
“I have to say I’m extremely happy with our core of veteran players,” said Manuel. “Anytime you lose the quality of players we did, there are always question marks. But or returning players have stepped up and assumed leadership roles. They’ve all started in big matches in theior careers and know what it takes to win, so I feel like we’re in good hands.”
Based on the preseason alone, the Heat look like they’ll hit the ground running.
UBC Okanagan posted a 7-2 record, including five straight en route to winning the University of Ottawa tournament.
In terms of character, Manuel said this year’s version of the Heat matches up favourably to last year.
“I think what we did Ottawa is what this team’s about,” he said. “We weren’t as sharp as we would have liked and didn’t play great volleyball, but there was just no quit in the. Already, this team has shown tenacity and resilience. They came through when the chips were down.”
Under the guidance of first-year head coach Brad Hudson and assistants Dave Risso and Adam Cochrane, the Heat men will be looking to improve on last season’s disappointing 4-20 record in Canada West play.
Gone are key veterans Jim Bell, Leo Schober, Kyle Pankratz and Jeremy Fostvelt.
Leading the way in 2016-17 will be the likes of veterans Alex Swiatlowski, Josh Harvey and Lars Bornemann.
Last year’s top rookies, Eli Risso and Devon Cote, will also be depended on for key contributions.
Like the Heat women, the UBCO men will kick off their Canada West regular season this weekend at their home campus.
The Heat will battle the University of Brandon at 7 p.m. on Friday and 8 p.m.