SASKATOON, – With a weekend left in the regular season, playoffs were in the air in men’s volleyball Saturday. The UBC Okanagan Heat beat the Saskatchewan Huskies in a five set thriller to stay in the playoff chase while eliminating Saskatchewan, fighting off five Huskie match points on their way to the 3-2 victory (23-25, 25-20, 28-26, 18-25, 18-16).
Tonight’s match was a must win for both teams as a loss would eliminate any chance either team had for the playoffs. The lose and you’re out immediacy made the pivotal third and fifth sets so exciting for those watching, with the Heat pulling out the victory after trailing 14-11 in the fifth set and denying the Huskies on five match point attempts. With the knowledge that the Winnipeg Wesmen lost tonight in Manitoba, the Heat know that they need to sweep this upcoming weekend against the TRU WolfPack in order to guarantee a playoff berth in their inaugural CIS season.
Heat head coach Greg Poitras was pleased with his team’s effort Saturday night. “To say that [the match] was an epic battle would be an understatement. Every player on the floor had to make a clutch play. Some of our guys struggled at times and their teammates did a great job keeping their minds focused and staying aggressive. Our wing players dug deep and found ways to score. I was extremely happy with the composure we showed with so much on the line, with so much adversity.”
Geoffrey Zerr, a fifth-year middle player for the Huskies in his final home match, recorded 16 kills for Saskatchewan. Braden McLean, also a middle player, added 14 kills and two aces.
Outside hitter Nate Speijer (4th year, Penticton, BC) had 22 kills and five aces for the Heat. Fellow outside hitter Riley McFarland (4th year, Surrey, BC) added 20 kills and two aces.
UBC Okanagan (6-12) is home to the Thompson Rivers WolfPack next weekend and needs to sweep the series to pass Winnipeg Wesmen (7-13) for the seventh and final playoff spot in the conference. The games are on Friday and Saturday, both starting at 8 p.m. PST at UBC’s Okanagan campus.
Greg Poitras looks forward to the matches this upcoming weekend, adding “we will need the Heat student body and Heat volleyball community in full force at ‘The Furnace’ next Friday and Saturday.”
Saskatchewan (4-14) is in Winnipeg against the Manitoba Bisons. The Huskies had to win Saturday and then beat Manitoba twice next weekend to make the playoffs.
Both teams’ games can be watched live at www.canadawest.tv.