Kelowna, B.C. – The Heat closed the weekend out with a bang tonight, ending their eight-game losing streak and taking down the third ranked team in the country in just four sets (16-25, 25-21, 25-16, 25-18). The Pandas began to stage a comeback late in the fourth set but the Heat were able to hold them off and take out the No. 3 team in the nation.
The Heat went into tonight’s match determined to knock off a team that has been great in the CIS for decades. UBC Okanagan head coach Manuel used his Saturday morning practice and video session to show the team how close they were in taking out the Pandas on Friday night. With the team’s confidence renewed and the opportunity to play in front of a partisan crowd of friends and family, his young squad took down the Pandas.
“We were able to execute our game plan tonight,” commented a beaming Manuel. “In doing so it gave us the opportunity to do some tactical things that we haven’t been able to do so that was the difference tonight. As the match went out, our team just believed that they could win and they just kept playing with more and more confidence and found a way to get it done.”
The Pandas came out strong in the first set, returning almost everything to the Heat with a fire beneath it. Freshman and 6’4″ outside hitter Alena Omelchenko (Almaty, Kazakhstan) smacked a game high total of 13 kills. Libero Erin Walsh (4th year, Edmonton, BC) grabbed 23 digs for her team tonight alongside setter Alyssa Jones (3rd year, Edmonton, AB) who grabbed an additional 18 digs. Setter and 6’1″ Jaki Ellis (Mississauga, ON) shot down 12 kills against the Heat and helped out with 21 assists.
“It felt like we were a lot more mentally prepared for this game,” said Heat outside hitter Myrte Schön (3rd year, Langley, BC). “We knew what they were going to do and we knew what to expect from them so we just adjusted to that and played our guts out.”
From the second set on, the Heat shut down the Pandas and put down some unstoppable kills and played inspired defense. The second set was kept tight, showing a quickened Heat defensive response and a higher level of focus. Myrte Schön smacked a team high total of 10 kills, and orchestrated an eight-point scoring run on her serve in the fourth set to help her team steal the win from the Pandas tonight.
“We haven’t been able to maintain a high level for very long periods of time,” Manuel added. “Myrte went back there and hit serve after serve and we just didn’t let them off the hook.”
Fellow outside hitter Alex Basso (4th year, Kelowna, BC) hit nine kills and grabbed 22 digs tonight. Freshman and 6’2″ middle Katy Klomps (Surrey, BC) added another nine kills to the scoreboard and three service aces. Starting setter Chandler Proch (2nd year, Kelowna, BC) had a team high total of 2110 assists with five kills and a 40.0 percent attack rate; a strong showing for the second year setter after making a rapid comeback from a back injury that kept her out of the matches last weekend.
Manuel continued. “I think that we have shown that we can play and that we are good enough that we can beat anybody on any given night. We let a few slip away that maybe we could have won and I think that the team just said ‘that’s enough’. They came out with nothing to lose and hit their serves really hard and attacked with purpose. Their confidence rose and U of A’s confidence declined.”
The Heat improve to 3-11 and are still looking to grab a spot in the playoffs, while the Pandas drop to 110-5 in conference play. The Heat host the University of Regina Cougars at the UBC Okanagan campus at 6 p.m. next Friday, while the Pandas host the University of Calgary Dinos at 6 p.m. next Friday. Both games can be seen live at www.canadawest.tv.
HEAT NOTES: Chandler Proch has had back to back matches with double digit attack attempts from the setter position…the Pandas were only able to notch 5 service aces versus the Heat, their second lowest total on the year…Katy Klomps tied her career best with 3 solo blocks versus the Pandas; her 60 total blocks on the year rank her 6th in the CIS.