WINNIPEG, MB –- Coming off a weekend road split with UBC, it was the first matchup ever Friday night between the nation’s fifth-ranked Manitoba Bisons women’s volleyball team and the unranked UBC Okanagan Heat. Thanks to an outstanding effort, it was the Heat (2-3) who came out with a grueling five set upset over Manitoba (3-2), winning (25-17, 18-25, 25-23, 15-25, 15-13) at Investors Group Athletic Centre.
“That is not an easy team to beat especially in their own gym,” a satisfied Heat coach Steve Manuel proclaims. “They’re good; it is a big gym, huge atmosphere. It’s usually an intimidating place for teams to play.”
The Heat took advantage with the Bisons slow start in the first set, and were able to hold on as Manitoba made a run close to the end, scoring five of six after a timeout and a Kristi Hunter (5th year, Robin, MB) kill, but UBC Okanagan eventually finished things off to win the set, 25-17.
UBC Okanagan found themselves down by double digits after a big run by the Bisons in the second set. The tides turned for a while as the Heat rallied to get within four late in the set. With a pair of strong kills from veteran national team middle blocker Tricia Mayba (5th year, Winnipeg, MB) though, the Bisons were able to close it out, 25-18.
Mayba finished the match with 20 kills in 37 attempts good for a .459 percentage, even with those great stats coach Manuel thought they did a good job on Maybe and on Manitoba’s first year setter Christina Souza (Brasilia, Brazil). “They have a very talented young setter in Souza and they have a very good middle in Mayba but we were able to keep them off balance and keep them from getting a lot of rhythm, they weren’t able to score as many points as they normally would,” explains Manuel, “that was the big one.”
The third set proved to be the closest yet, with the teams knotted at 19-19 late. With two tricky Heat tips at the net though, including one behind the head by second-year setter Chandler Proch (Kelowna, BC), UBC Okanagan was able to squeak out a 25-23 win and put the Bisons in a stranglehold.
The Heat fell again in the fourth as the Bisons rode the backs of first-year Crystal Mulder (Right side, Winnipeg, MB) and Mayba who both had authoritative kills to help build a Manitoba lead that eventually resulted in a convincing 25-15 set win.
In the first-to-fifteen deciding fifth set, the two teams went back and forth but it ultimately came down to the UBC Okanagan players making the clutch plays at the net, securing the upset victory, 15-13.
The key to the Heat’s victory was their ability to serve and keep the Bisons on their heels as Manuel explains:
“We served really well, we were consistent and didn’t miss a lot; that was the key and that was our game plan going in….to keep them off balance [from the service line].”
The Manitoba Bisons women’s volleyball team will play the second of a back-to-back against UBC Okanagan on Saturday night. Game time at 4 p.m. PST and as coach Manuel puts it, “tomorrow will be a battle; we had to work so very very hard to pull that one out[tonight]. We will be tired, banged up and sore.” You can catch the action live on www.canadawest.tv