by Cary Mellon
January 11, 2014, KELOWNA, BC (ISN) – There’s an old adage in volleyball that stresses the importance of being the first to reach 8 points in the fifth set, and the UBC Okanagan Heat men’s volleyball team showed why in their Saturday night 3-2 (25-23, 25-27, 25-23, 18-25, 15-11) victory over the third-ranked UBC – their second in as many nights.
Nate Speijer (5th year, Penticton, BC) would power the Heat to an early 6-2 advantage from the service line, as he utilized both power and precision to keep the Thunderbird back-row from getting a quality first touch on the ball. The first to reach eight at 8-3, the Heat looked fully in control with a sizable lead that seemed insurmountable at the time with the way that UBC had opened up the frame. At 9-3, UBC was forced to take its second and final timeout of the frame, but would rally to tie the game at 10-10 behind a few unforced errors committed by the Heat. Despite their six point lead vanishing, UBC Okanagan remained calm, and Speijer and Alex Swiatlowski (2nd year, Victoria, BC) would power the Heat the rest of the way to the 15-11 fifth set victory.
“We faced a bunch of adversity in this one,” remarked Heat head coach Greg Poitras post-game. “They threw a different lineup at us tonight, and it took us a set or two to adjust.”
Player of the Game Alex Swiatlowski led all hitters with 20 kills on 39 attempts in the finest game of his young career. Nate Speijer provided 17 kills of his own, in addition to two service aces that came at important junctures in the match. As a team, the Heat out-blocked the T-Birds 12-10 and forced UBC to commit 29 errors.
“Lars was the hero last night, and tonight it was Alex that stepped up,” added Poitras. “Nate was in a zone tonight that we’ve seen before, and we were really happy to see him in that zone tonight. His service reception and attacking was at a level that a lot of teams would be unable to stop.”
For UBC, it was a better offensive game than the one previous for the Thunderbirds. Quentin Schmidt had 17 kills, Alex Russell had 15 kills, and Noah Derksen had 10 kills in the match, but as a team, UBC was only able to hit .203 over the course of the five sets. More importantly, UBC’s team kill percentage in the fifth set was a paltry -.071.
The home crowd, once again, played a small contributing role in the Heat’s win on this night, coming alive in the fifth set to make for a raucous atmosphere inside the “Furnace”. When asked about the crowd’s importance, Poitras stated: “We heard them for sure. It may just be a big muffled noise at times, but it had an impact.”
The win sees the Heat’s record improve to 4-10 on the season, as they open up 2014 with two straight victories. Meanwhile, UBC drops to 9-5 in what is becoming a very hotly contested Canada West playoff picture. The Heat now sit only two games out of the seventh of final playoff spot, currently held by 6-8 Manitoba (who the Heat will face January 31st and February 1st).
The Thunderbirds will return home to host the Brandon Bobcats next weekend, January 17th and 18th, while the Heat will make their way to Langley, BC to face the top-ranked Trinity Western Spartans.