Changing of the guard boosts Heat to weekend sweep

okanagan heat

February 3, 2013, Winnipeg, MB (ISN) – Even after locking up a playoff berth the night before, the Heat still felt they had a lot to prove versus Winnipeg in their second meeting.

After needing five sets to knock off the then 7-11 Wesmen the previous night, the Heat were determined to use Saturday as a way to erase any doubt that surrounded Friday night’s affair. It would be the young guns of the Heat to boost the team to victory in a 3-1 route (23-25, 25-17, 25-22, 26-24).

After impressive showings Friday, head coach Steve Manuel elected to give Myrte Schön and Kendra Wayling a rest; in substitution for a recently red-hot Megan Festival (1st year, Calgary, AB) and up-and-coming Kaitlynn Given (1st year, Kelowna, BC), who put in the best showing of her young career the night previous. These two rookies, along with second-year middle Katie Wuttunee (2nd year, North Vancouver, BC), would bring new dimensions to a Heat offense that was simply unstoppable.

Wuttunee would account for 11 kills on the night for a sparkling .435 kill percentage, but more importantly, she dominated at the net with five blocks. Kaitlynn Given would supplement Wuttunee with eight kills, while anchoring the back-row with 15 digs, and Festival would put the bow on top of her stellar weekend, connecting on 11 kills for a weekend total of 29.

It was a total team effort for the Heat, as six Heat players had five or more kills, while an additional six had five or more digs. To say the machine was firing on all cylinders would be an understatement.

The job of coordinating the Heat machine was once again in the steady hands of freshman setter, Emily Oxland (N. Vancouver, BC), who is establishing herself as a top contender for Canada West rookie of the year consideration. Oxland orchestrated the new players and the regular lineup to a tune of 51 assists, after tonight Oxland has 724 assists, the most in Canada and she is averaging 9.05 per set fifth best in the nation.

Emily’s coach, Steve Manuel is continually surprised at how his rookie setter is performing “I can’t believe how well this first year player is handling the pressure of running the offence on such a young team. I said before the season that I did not want to be starting a rookie setter, but if I had to that Emily Oxland is definitely the one that I want doing it.”

More importantly, the Heat were able to minimize unforced errors, committing only seven over the course of the four sets. The Heat served tough as well, gaining four points on four service aces.

The Heat would ruin a monster game for Winnipeg outside hitter Ozana Nikolic, who had an astonishing 29 kills on 67 attempts for a .299 kill percentage.

However, the Heat showed that a total team effort trumps a great individual performance any night.

In a back and forth opening set the Heat gained the upper hand holding a 16-12 advantage at the technical break. UBC Okanagan continued to lead late in the set (20-15) when Winnipeg made their move. A 7-2 run sparked by two kills each by Nikolic and Lynch tied the score at 22-22. A kill by UBC Okanagan’s Basso made it 23-22 for the Heat but after a Lynch kill tied the score at 23-23, Nikolic pounded home back to back kills to give the Wesmen a 25-23 advantage in the opening set.

The Heat had control in the second set racing out to a 16-10 lead at the break and extended the lead even more to 21-11 later in the set and eventually won the second set 25-17 to even the match.

Winnipeg once again trailed in the third set on several occasions but every time they managed to fight back. The Heat had a five point lead early on but Winnipeg closed the gap to 16-14 at the technical break. Winnipeg closed the gap to 23-22 until a kill by Kaitlynn Given followed by a Heat block gave the Heat the third set by a score of 25-22.

The Wesmen looked poised to force a fifth set leading 24-22 in the fourth, but UBC Okanagan stormed back scoring four straight points to close out the match winning the set by a tally of 26-24.

With the win, the Heat climb to 13-7, while the Wesmen drop to 7-13.

The Heat return home next weekend, February 8th and 9th, for a weekend series with huge implications in terms of playoff positioning. The series will go against the University of Brandon with Friday night’s game starting at 6 p.m., and Saturday’s game starting at 5 p.m.

Come out and cheer on your UBC Okanagan Heat in their final weekend series of the 2012/2013 Canada West season and into the playoffs!

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