okanagan heat

November 25, 2012, EDMONTON, AB (ISN) – Despite the difference in national rank between the Heat (ranked 10th) and the Alberta Pandas (Ranked 3rd), Saturday’s matchup between both teams was as evenly matched as it gets in the CIS women’s volleyball. With records of 6-2, both teams were looking to continue to climb the rankings, which resulted in a five set thriller in favour of the Pandas 3-2 (25-23, 25-18, 23-25, 23-25, 15-13)

After losing the first two sets, the Heat proved worthy of their national ranking, showing resiliency and poise as they fought back to tie the game at two sets apiece.

The Heat then opened up the fifth set 4-1 on two errors by Alberta and kills by Alex Basso and Emily Oxland. However, Alberta rattled off 5 straight points to sway the set in their favour 6-4. Megan Festival countered the Alberta effort with 3 straight kills to bring the Heat within one point at 9-8, but at 14-12 it looked to be Alberta’s game to lose, and it almost was, as another fifth-set kill by the younger Festival put the game at 14-13. But a kill by Alyssa Jones put the game out of reach for the Heat, who were unable to complete the third set victory, win, and upset.

“Our young team showed a lot of character tonight and battled hard for over 2 hours,” said head coach Steve Manuel following the match. “Our backs were against the wall, and our players showed no signs of quitting. Just didn’t have enough to pull it out.”

As mentioned, first-year outside hitter Megan Festival (Calgary, AB) was key for the Heat. The younger of the two Festival’s put in the best game of her young career, tallying 12 kills on 30 attempts while adding 11 digs and 2 service aces. Alex Basso (5th year, Kelowna, BC) added 13 kills of her own, while Emily Oxland (1st year, North Vancouver, BC) collected 45 assists while never leaving the floor once over the course of the five sets.

“We had huge performances from our rookies,” finished Manuel. “Emily [Oxland] was a rock, and Megan [Festival] played a great match tonight.”

With the loss, the 10th ranked Heat drop to 6-3, while the Pandas climb to 7-2.