okanagan heat

February 15, 2013,  Kelowna, BC (ISN) – Billed as one of the most evenly-matched playoff series in Canada West, the quarter-final match-up between the fourth-seed UBC Okanagan Heat and the fifth-seed Mount Royal Cougars played out as expected.

Both teams exchanged blows over a roller-coaster five-set bout that went the way of the visiting Cougars 3-2 (25-21, 22-25, 15-25, 25-21, 15-13).

After a shaky first two sets for both teams, the Heat began to play like the team that dethroned the number one team in the nation, with a convincing third-set win 25-15. The Heat hit a combined .304 in the set, while stifling the Cougars who would finish the set with a forgettable -.100 kill percentage. Alex Basso (5th year, Kelowna, BC) had five of her team-high 13 kills in the third set, as the Heat looked to take control.

After such a dominant third-set, the Heat headed into the fourth with confidence that they could close things out in four sets. Up 17-11 in the set, it looked as if the Heat were going to stroll to the 3-1 victory. However, Mackenzie Quinn (3rd year, Red Deer, AB) of Mount Royal would have none of it, as she brought her team back from the service line with three straight serves that resulted in an ace and kills by Olivia Grecu (4th year, Calgary, AB) and Fallon Middlemiss (3rd year, Sherwood Park, AB) to bring the Cougars to within two, 20-18. Attack errors by the Heat would swing the set in favour of Mount Royal 21-25, and the Cougars were able to weather a fifth-set storm that saw twelve tied scores over the fifteen points.

Olivia Grecu was a thorn in the Heat’s side all night, with 18 kills, 2 service aces, and 7 digs. Fallon Middlemiss had 10 kills to go along with 15 digs as well for the Cougars.

On the Heat side, Katie Wuttunee (2nd year, North Vancouver, BC) was the most effective scorer for the hosts with 12 kills on 21 attempts for a game-high .524 kill percentage. She also had six block assists and two huge solo blocks for the Heat, who out-blocked their opponents 14-9. Rookie Emily Oxland (North Vancouver, BC) played with poise from her setter position, leading the Heat offense to the tune of 38 assists.

Without a doubt, both playoff jitters and an electric crowd atmosphere played into the minds of both rookie post-season teams. Mount Royal committed 22 service errors over the course of the five sets, while UBC Okanagan committed 12 of their own. Both teams hit under their season averages at .132 for Mount Royal and .156 for the Heat.

Despite the shakiness, the Heat rookies played extremely well and showed little, if any, signs of nervousness. Megan Festival (1st year, Calgary, AB) came in to relieve Myrte Schön at 12-12 in the second set, and provided some much needed offense and back-row consistency. Kaitlynn Given came on in the fourth, and although she didn’t collect a kill, her four attempts kept the Cougars on their heels. And what more can you say about Emily Oxland?

The Heat now look to stave off elimination tomorrow night, as they will re-welcome the Cougars back to UBC Okanagan Gymnasium for the second-and-possibly-deciding game. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m. If the Heat should win Friday the third and deciding match will played on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in the UBC Okanagan Gymnasium.

The winner of the series will move on to the Canada West Final Four hosted by the UBC Thunderbirds at war Memorial Gymnasium, where the top three finishers of the tournament earn a berth to the CIS championships. The 2013 CIS Women’s Volleyball Championship will be held February 28th to March 2nd at the Université de Sherbrooke.

The game can be viewed on www.canadawest.tv