No one is questioning the UBC Okanagan Heat’s place in the CIS now.
In only their fifth season competing at the university level, the Heat earned a medal in their first trip to the CIS Women’s Volleyball Championship, beating the UBC Thunderbirds 25-18, 25-18, 25-19 in Sunday’s third-place match.
CHAMPIONSHIP WEBSITE: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/wvball/index
For Heat head coach Steve Manuel, the medal validated all of the work the program has put into being competitive at the CIS level.
“As a program this is just a very satisfying moment,” Manuel said. “There were a lot of naysayers throughout the years (saying) we’re just another college team coming into CIS. We had lots of negative things said (such as) ‘You’re just going to water things down, you’re not going to be able to compete with the big dogs.’ We thought we could, but we never dreamt we would be able to, in this short of time, get to where we are.”
The Heat were ranked first in the CIS this season before losing to the Trinity Western Spartans in the Canada West conference final and came into nationals as the third seeds. They suffered a disappointing loss to the Toronto Varsity Blues in Saturday’s semifinals, and fourth-year player Kaitlynn Given said UBCO was determined to come back and win a medal on Sunday.
“I think that’s one thing that shows a lot of character about our team is our ability to just refocus,” said Given, who led the Heat with 10 kills in the bronze-medal match. “I’m not going to lie, it was hard last night. We all needed our time, and we took it, but this morning we woke up, were determined and were refocused for this game.”
This match capped off a tremendous and ground-breaking season for a group that took UBC Okanagan from CIS newcomers to national medalists. This group includes: Outside hitters Katelyn DeJong and Brianna Beamish, setter Chandler Proch, libero Kailin Jones, and middles Katy Klomps and Katie Wuttunee.
The Thunderbirds, seeded fifth for the championship, challenged the Heat and took early leads in each set, but each time UBCO recovered to win handily.
The Thunderbirds have been to the national championship 21 times in the last 22 years, winning the title six years in a row from 2008 to 2013.