February 2, 2013, Winnipeg, MB (ISN) – It should come as no surprise for those who follow the Heat to see their team compete in yet another five-set thriller. This time it was versus the Winnipeg Wesmen, a surging team fresh off an upset weekend split versus the third-ranked Alberta Pandas.
It took time and patience, but the Heat were able to weather the storm and solve the Wesmen attack in a huge comeback victory 3-2 (23-25, 22-25, 26-24, 25-19, 15-6). More importantly, the Heat were able to clinch a playoff berth; their first in only two seasons in the CIS.
After a forgettable first set, the Heat looked in good shape up 19-13 in the second. However, Winnipeg would claw back into the set in part due to some poor execution by the Heat, and the Wesmen would extend their lead to two sets to none. With all the momentum in favour of Winnipeg, a Heat comeback looked bleak.
“Winnipeg played great for the first couple of sets,” commented Heat head coach Steve Manuel. “We couldn’t get anything going and made too many unforced errors”
However, there was still hope with Megan Festival (1st year, Calgary, AB) playing inspired volleyball. The first-year outside hitter had 10 kills over the first two sets after coming in off the bench, and was having success versus the Wesmen defense. Still, with Festival playing well, veteran outside hitters Myrte Schön (4th year, Langley, BC) and Alex Basso (5th year, Kelowna, BC) were struggling.
Cue perhaps the most crucial move in the game.
Steve Manuel would elect to substitute Brianna Beamish (2nd year, Surrey, BC) for Kendra Wayling (5th year, Castlegar, BC) at 14-11 in the game, and from that point on Beamish and Festival would take over. Beamish would finish with 11 kills, while Festival put in the best game of her promising young career and would finish with 18 kills.
With Festival and Beamish on a roll, the Heat would rally for a .276 kill percentage over the final three sets, compared to a bleak .053 kill percentage for the Wesmen that included a fifth set in which the host team had a kill percentage of 0.000.
Kaitlynn Given (1st year, Kelowna, BC) was also hugely instrumental for the Heat, adding a quiet 8 kills on 12 attempts for a ridiculous .667 kill percentage. Lenai Schmidt (4th year, Vernon, BC) was also stalwart in the back-row, coming up with 19 digs over another lengthy contest for the Heat.
“With four new players in the lineup, we played extremely well” added Manuel.
With the win, the Heat ascend to 12-7, while the Wesmen drop to 7-12.
More importantly, the Heat secure a playoff berth in only their second season in Canada West. Furthermore, the Heat are still in the driver’s seat, with the opportunity to host a Canada West playoff series depending on the results of the remaining three games.
The Heat will look to better their chances of hosting a Canada West playoff series tomorrow, facing Winnipeg to complete the weekend series at 5:30 p.m. Kelowna time. The game can be viewed on www.canadawest.tv