KELOWNA, B.C. –The Heat have really missed their home gym and have not won a match since starting the season 3-0 with a four set victory over UBC in early November.
The Heat now sit at 3-9 and will look to get back on the winning track now that they are at home. The Heat host the No. 3 ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears with their 8-4 record and third place status in Canada West. Games are set to go Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m., played at UBC’s Okanagan campus.
Friday, January 20 – The University of Alberta Golden Bears at the UBC Okanagan Heat (8 p.m. PST, UBC’s Okanagan campus, Kelowna, BC)
Saturday, January 21 – The University of Alberta Golden Bears at the UBC Okanagan Heat (8 p.m. PST, UBC’s Okanagan campus, Kelowna, BC)
Both games will be streamed with live video: www.canadawest.tv
CIS National Ranking: N/A
CanWest Standings: 9th
Last Week: 0-2; Fri 3-1 loss to BU, Sat 3-0 loss to BU
Streak: 9 losses
2010 CanWest Record: N/A
2010 CanWest Championship: N/A
2010 CIS Tournament: N/A
Last CanWest Title: N/A
Last CIS Title: N/A
Last Weekend: The Heat dropped both games on the road versus Brandon. Friday night the Heat took a set off of the Bobcats (24-26, 25-15, 25-12, 25-17), while Saturday they lost 3-0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-22).
Home sweet home: The Heat have amassed all three of their wins at home and have only dropped 1 match on the Kelowna court.
Home at last: The Heat’s last home game was Nov. 5, 2011. That was so long ago that the NBA was still on strike, Tim Tebow was a losing quarterback and Kelowna was heading to a civic election.
Dynamic Duo at home: Riley McFarland and Nate Speijer were a dominant attacking force for the Heat in their four home games. Speijer was third in Canada West with 68 kills and a 4.53 kills per set average. McFarland was right behind Speijer with 60 kills at 4.00 per set. On the road Speijer has 111 kills and a 3.83 per set average, while McFarland really enjoys home cooking; he was only able to put down 39 kills with an average of 1.86.
Rookie Russo: Freshman Jon Russo has played in all but six of the Heat’s sets this season. Head coach Greg Poitras likes Russo’s versatility and his desire to battle, saying that Russo is getting significant floor time “because of his versatility, and because of not having Steve Clements at practice, we’ve had to have Jon play left side full time. Jon has gone out on the floor and performed well right away in some tough situations. He has proven to be a competitor.”
Playoffs: The Heat still have a chance; Winnipeg currently sits in the last playoff spot, only three wins ahead of the Heat. The Heat swept Winnipeg at home and hold the tiebreaker. Coach Poitras has his team primed for a playoff drive: “We still have a decent shot at making the Canada West playoffs,” Poitras says, “so we are focusing our attention on putting the best players on the floor who are healthy.”
Strategy for the Bears: “We are going to need to have a great serving match as they do have a lot of fire power from corner to corner,” points out Poitras. “They have showed some signs of off nights with respect to serve receive, so hopefully we can take advantage of serving tough at them in our gym. We will also have to be very sharp with our passing in order to run a successful offense.”
How to win this weekend: “Our expectations are based on competing over a longer period of time,” adds Poitras. “Mentally we haven’t sustained a good enough level with the country’s best teams. Against Alberta if we can perform better under some pressure than we have of recent past, then I think we have a shot at victory. We need a better performance from more of our starters to shake the Bears this weekend.”
This weekend’s opponent:
ALBERTA GOLDEN BEARS (8-4)
CIS National Ranking: No. 3
CanWest Standings: 3rd
Previous Week: 0-2; Fri 3-1 loss to TWU, Sat 3-0 loss to TWU
Streak: 3 losses
2011 CanWest Record: 17-1 (1st)
2011 CanWest Championship: 2-3
Last CanWest Title: 2010
Last CIS Title: 2009
Their record: The Golden Bears have lost their last three matches. Last weekend they were swept by the No. 1 Spartans in Langley, and before that split their series with the No. 5 Thunderbirds. Their only other loss was in Winnipeg when they split with the No. 2 ranked Bisons. They’ve swept TRU, USASK, and Winnipeg.
Like the new digs: The Bears are playing at the new Saville Community Centre and enjoy playing there, dropping only one game at home. Their record at home is 5-1.
Matchup: The Heat beat the Bears in 3 sets in early September in an exhibition match. But Poitras adds that “there was no question in my mind that they would improve over time. Teams with depth like Alberta typically play their best ball this time of year.”
This weekend’s opponent form Heat’s perspective: “Alberta has once again lived up to its impressive reputation,” adds Poitras. “Alberta has lost a few matches on the road and we have only lost one at home, so hopefully we can compete and have enough grit to take them out.”
Statistically speaking: As one would expect from a top ranked team like Alberta, the Bears are ranked in the top tier of teams in almost every category; they serve the ball very well and are second in Canada West at 1.32 aces per set.
Kill leader: Junior right side Mitch Irvine is second in the nation in total kills with 199, 4.23 per set and a .276 attack rate. Taylor Hunt, a 6’5″ left side, is second on the team with 142 kills, 3.02 per set, .252 attack rate, and leads the team with 15 service aces. Their setter Jeron Mueller is 4th in the nation with 501 sets.