Playing at the highest level of Canadian university sport, the UBC Okanagan Heat’s men’s volleyball team locked up a first ever berth in the Canada West playoffs on the weekend, sweeping Thompson Rivers University and punching its ticket to the CIS playoffs.
Heat head coach Greg Poitras was ecstatic about his team’s playoff berth.
“The goal we’ve had all season was to make playoffs,” said Poitras. “To be able to come here and play that high level of volleyball against our interior rivals was fantastic for our guys. The guys just played free. They played loose and they were so confident. They were sharp from start to finish.”
The Heat came out on top in matches on Friday night and Saturday night at the UBCO campus, UBCO honoured its senior players and also prolonged their season with the wins.
Team captain and setter Preston Tucker (5th year, Vernon, BC) put up 33 assists and eight digs in his last regular season game as a fifth year senior.
Fellow senior Spencer Brown said it was a great way to finish the regular season.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet but this was a great way to go out [of the regular season], that’s for sure,” noted Heat graduate Spencer Brown. “It was a great crowd, lots of support, and to finish with a win on our last game at home was pretty awesome. I like where we’re sitting right now; we’ve got a lot of momentum going and it seems like we’re peaking at the right time.”
The Heat honoured three outstanding players on the weekend: Mark Broome (5th year, Kelowna, BC), Spencer Brown (5th year, West Kelowna, BC) and Preston Tucker (5th year, Vernon, BC).
“They’ve contributed so much,” reflected Poitras. “That was probably one of the best delivery matches for Preston [Tucker] I’ve seen all year. He’d set the ball and I’d turn to the coach staff and say ‘he just nailed that set’. Mark with his energy and blocking too, just a fantastic effort.”
“It was a great end to a very long career,” said graduate Mark Broome. “It was a big win, to make playoffs, especially for the team and the program in our first year of CIS. The boys played great. Preston and Spencer played amazing as well. I think it’s the whole team effort. We played our game and controlled the ball from start to finish. I think we accomplished what we set out to do at the start of the year.”
With the UBC Okanagan win they have qualified for the first round of the Canada West playoffs and will open up their playoff series against No. 2 Manitoba in Winnipeg on Thursday.
“They’re going to need their rest,” commented Poitras of the players, looking into next weekend. “We have to get our heads thinking about the Bisons pretty quick here. It’s a quick turnaround. There’s not much time to do anything, just got to celebrate, relax, and then go and beat the Bisons.”
The Heat improve to 8-12 to finish their Canada West regular season
With completion of the regular season (not withstanding two OUAA matches tomorrow afternoon) Nate Speijer (4th year, Penticton, BC) and Riley McFarland were two of the best attackers in the country. McFarland was 17th at 3.32 kills per set, Speijer 5th in the nation with 3.98 kills per set…Preston Tucker finished 9th in the nation with 9.93 assists per set.