KELOWNA, B.C. – With a shot at the playoffs on the line, the UBC Okanagan Heat men’s volleyball team dismissed the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack tonight and kept their playoff hopes alive, shutting the ‘Pack down in just three sets (25-16, 25-23, 25-18) at UBC’s Okanagan campus.
The first set brought powerful kills and serves and back-breaking digs from the Heat, who were cheered on by a loud home crowd. They went on to take the set by nine points, 25-16. The ‘Pack kept things tight in the second set and were not about to let the Heat run away with the win. They weren’t able to close things down in the end, however, with the Heat pounding a few strong kills to end the set 25-23.
“We blocked a lot of balls and that probably won us a couple points because we got them rattled pretty quick,” commented Heat head coach Greg Poitras. “They played with us point-for-point all three sets and then they got a lead on us in the second and we just dealt with it. We stayed composed and Greg [Niemantsverdriet] came back and served a couple tough balls to get us back in the second. Spencer [Brown] helped out with a couple digs there off the bench on a couple of key plays.”
As a team the Heat had a total of 10 team blocks on the match, compared to the ‘Pack’s 3.5 total team blocks. Heat outside hitter Riley McFarland (4th year, Surrey, BC) smacked a game high total of 11 kills and had a .429 hitting percentage, as well as coleading the team in digs at five. Teammate Nate Speijer (4th year, Penticton, BC) was close behind McFarland with nine kills of his own. Team captain and setter Preston Tucker (5th year, Vernon, BC) put up a game high total of 32 assists and was three for three in kills on the night. Freshman Jeremy Fostvelt (Surrey, BC) also contributed five digs.
“The noise, you could feel it from the crowd,” observed Poitras. “It was probably the loudest crowd that we’ve had here; even when we’ve had 300 more people, this crowd was still the loudest. That’s a major advantage for us.”
The Heat kept coming as hard as ever in the third set, shutting down the ‘Pack with incredible force and ending the match, 25-18.
“They’re sharper,” said Poitras of the evolution of the team since the start of the season. “At the start of the year we were tentative so we didn’t score as much. We kept the ball in play and didn’t make as many errors maybe as we are now, but now we score more. We find we’re winning more games when we’re more aggressive and looking to score on the ball instead of just keep it in play. High risk but there’s more reward.”
“Everybody that needed to get in got in and did their part,” added Speijer. “It was a whole team effort tonight; it was good.”
The ‘Pack’s Alex Davis (3rd year, White Rock, BC) put down a team high total of seven kills and had a .583 hitting percentage. Teammate Aleks Saddlemyer (5th year, Sidney, BC) grabbed a game high total of six digs. Setter Colin Carson (3rd year, Prince George, BC) put up 21 assists and five kills.
With the win, the Heat improve to 7-12 on the season and keep their playoff dreams alive. The ‘Pack fall to 3-16 and are now on a 5-game losing streak.
The two teams meet again tomorrow night at UBC’s Okanagan campus at 8 p.m. The game can be seen live at www.canadawest.tv.
HEAT NOTES: All of the fifth year players stepped up their game tonight in their last weekend of action in ‘The Furnace’. Preston Tucker has been averaging 9.88 assists per set; tonight he was just a bit better with 10.67 assists per set. Mark Broome has been averaging 1.09 blocks per set on the year, while tonight he had 6 blocks in 3 sets. Spencer Brown had a hot hand serving for the Heat tonight, putting the first set out of reach with his 5 point serving run, and in the third set he took the Heat to match point with a four point serving run.