UBC Okanagan unable to dethrone defending champs

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by Cary Mellon

January 11, 2014, KELOWNA, BC (ISN) – The UBC Thunderbirds continue to prove their worth as the first-ranked team in the nation, making quick work of their inter-university rivals, the third-ranked UBC Okanagan Heat, in straight sets 3-0 (25-10, 25-16, 25-21) Saturday evening in Kelowna in Canada West women’s volleyball action.

The ‘Birds would set the tone early, both hitting .323 as a team and holding the Heat to a negative team kill percentage of -.121. Alissa Coulter provided 10 of UBC’s 34 kills on the evening, and as a team, the Thunderbirds out-blocked the Heat 10-7. Behind Coulter, Rosie Schlagintweit and Lisa Barclay provided 9 kills apiece – an off night by their standards and a missed opportunity for the Heat.

“I thought UBC played really solid and [UBC] really didn’t give us anything,” explained Heat head coach Steve Manuel after the game.

Coach Manuel chose to employ a multitude of different lineups in search of a winning formula over the course of the three set match. He also chose to reward the efforts of Megan Festival and Jillian Festival for their performances on Friday night with an opportunity to start in this contest.

Kaitlynn Given (2nd year, Kelowna, BC) would lead all Heat scorers with 6 kills while adding 9 digs as well. Katy Klomps (3rd year, Surrey, BC) and Katie Wuttunnee (3rd year, North Vancouver, BC) would add a combined 6 kills and 5 block assists in support, but were largely ineffective over the course of the three sets. Rookie Michelle Jakszuk (Gibsons, BC) saw considerable playing time in substitution of Brianna Beamish (3rd year, Surrey, BC) and Kaitlynn Given, connecting on 2 kills and contributing 3 digs in extended action.

The loss concludes what, overall, was a bizarre weekend of play for the Heat, which Steve Manuel was quick to acknowledge post-game.

“This wasn’t our team and not the way we’ve shown we can play,” said Manuel, making an obvious reference to the high-level of play the Heat have displayed all season prior to their weekend series versus UBC. “We got away from our game this weekend”, he added.

When asked what the mentality and game-plan will be for his squad heading into the final four weekends of the season, Manuel reiterated that that “we just need to get back to the way we’ve been playing.”

The Heat’s record now stands at 10-4, while the Thunderbird’s record improves to an unblemished 14-0.

The Heat will hit the road next weekend to continue the second half of the Canada West season, traveling to Langley, BC to face the fifth-ranked Trinity Western Spartans. The Thunderbirds, meanwhile, will return home to host the fourth-ranked Brandon Bobcats.