When push came to shove, head coach Steve Manuel says his UBC Okanagan women’s team had nothing left to offer.
Emotionally drained from the tragic events of the previous weekend, the Heat settled for fourth spot at the CCAA women’s volleyball championship in Saint John, New Brunswick, ending UBCO’s two-year grasp on the national championship.
With the passing of Heat men’s player Jordan Young in a car crash days earlier never from from their thoughts, the UBCO women were unable to turn aside furious rally from the VIU Mariners in the semifinal, losing 3-2 (17-25, 17-25, 26-24, 25-20, 15-11).
“We won the first two games, and then just had a meltdown,” said Manuel. “As soon as we got pushed, uncharacteristically, we just couldn’t handle it. Our team was mentally drained and just couldn’t cope with anymore adversity.
“Under normal circumstances we would face a challenge like that and persevere. This time we didn’t have the mental capabilities. What happened last week took a lot out of them.”
It turned out to be more of the same in the bronze medal match on Saturday as a listless Heat team succumbed to F.X. Garneau 3-1 to finish in fourth place.
Still, with three provincial and two national titles to their credit in the last three seasons, Manuel said a couple of losses won’t take the luster off what has been a spectacular stretch of volleyball to mark the end of the Heat’s days in the BCCAA.
“It’s been an amazing run,” Manuel said. “I can count on one hand the matches we’ve lost the last three years. We’re not going to let a shaky 21-hour period put a damper on what we’ve done. This is just an amazing group of student athletes.”
Wins, losses, and championships aside, Manuel said events of the last week have
have shed some light on what’s really important in life.
“There’s no doubt we’re there to play a sport and to win, but it really is just a game,” Manuel said. “At the end of the day, with what we’ve had to deal with, the grief and the pain, who cares about the game. That wasn’t our attitude going in, but once we started playing you could see it in our team. We didn’t have our best. This, I think, puts it all in perspective.”
UBCO’s Myrte Schon was named to the national tournament’s first all-star team, while teammate Alex Basso made the second team.
Basso and BCCAA player of the year Caitlyn Nyhus were named CCAA all-Canadians.
Manuel wins national award
Steve Manuel is the CCAA women’s volleyball coach of the year for 2010-11.
Under Manuel, the Heat posted an unbeaten regular season and playoff record en route to winning the BCCAA title.
“Steve is a strong ambassador of the sport,” said Pierre Nobert, CCAA women’s volleyball convenor. “He’s heavily involved in the volleyball community, even outside UBCO.”
Manuel has won the B.C. coach of the year award five times in his 10 seasons with the Kelowna-based program.