Ranked No. 1 in the nation and playing on their home court, it didn’t seem anything was going to stop the UBC Okanagan men’s volleyball squad.
The Heat bid farewell to their final season in the BCCAA with a gold medal victory at the provincial championship Saturday night in front of a raucous throng of more than 1,200 fans inside the Kelowna campus gym.
With the gym still buzzing from the Heat women’s gold medal win, UBCO followed suit by taking down the third-seed Columbia Bible College Bearcats in four sets in the final (25-19, 21-25, 25-16, 25-17.)
“It was a great team effort,” said Heat veteran power hitter Nate Speijer. “We talked about it a lot, we emphasized about staying together through this, not making it a one-man or two-man show. The guys all came to play.
“Our fans were unbelievable, too. It feels great.”
The Bearcats, who were playing their third match in three nights, put up a fight but couldn’t stop the high-flying power duo of Speijer and Greg Niemantsverdriet who combined for 33 points, including 23 kills.
Player of the match Mark Broome added nine kills, while Chris Howe had five blocks as the Heat celebrated their second provincial title in four seasons.
“It was just a great couple of days for us,” said Heat coach Greg Poitras.
“I think we showed a lot of maturity as a team and even when we were down at times, the guys somehow knew they were going to get through it. That sort of confidence and poise takes a long time to develop and our guys have really matured with that part of their game.”
The Heat’s gold medal win was the final match on their home court as a BCCAA team as the program gets set to step up to Canada West in the CIS next season.
Poitras credits much of his team’s success to the players commitment to the team and to one another.
“Hard work has resulted in success for our guys,” said Poitras. “The work ethic, supporting their teammates, competing at practice after practice has really paid off.
Even at practice, the guys want to beat that guy on the other side of the net, their own teammate. There’s a real will and desire to win with this team.”
Nate Speijer was named the provincial tourney MVP, while teammates Greg Niemantsverdriet, Chris Howe, and Preston Tucker were all named to the all-star team.
Now the Heat will turn their attention to the CCAA national championship March 10 to 12 in Sherbrooke, Que.
Chris Howe said the Heat will need to pick up their game yet another notch against the best in Canada.
“We want to really work on speed because it’s something that’s going to beat everyone,” said Howe, the second year middle blocker. “Once you get to nationals, everything is about pace.”
The top-ranked Heat will face the eighth-seeded Kings University College of Nova Scotia in their opening match.
As the runner up, CBC will join the Heat as a B.C. representative at the national championship.