Heat clinch playoff berth with victory over Manitoba

Okanagan heat-logo-just-H

by Cary Mellon

February 2, 2014, WINNIPEG, MB (ISN) – Katy Klomps (3rd year, Surrey, BC) would give the Heat women’s volleyball team the two point advantage at 10-8 in the fifth set with two blocks in an extended rally, and UBC Okanagan would maintain control thereafter to outlast Manitoba 3-2 (25-21, 25-18, 18-25, 25-23, 15-11) and clinch their second playoff berth in as many years.

“We did a much better job adjusting tonight,” said Heat head coach Steve Manuel following the game. “We made the right play at crucial times.”

The Heat and Bisons now sit with identical records of 12-7, but it is the Bisons who will retain the all-important fourth seed with two games remaining due to the tiebreaker of sets won/sets lost. Here are the possible outcomes in the final two games for the Heat and Bisons [PDF].

Understanding the obvious importance of their second meeting with Manitoba, the Heat would come out playing what Brianna Beamish (3rd year, Surrey, BC) described two weeks ago as “big girl” volleyball. In attack mode from the first serve, the Heat took the game right to Manitoba, and behind crisp passing, a fluid Heat offense flexed their collective muscle over the course of the first two sets. Kaitlynn Given (2nd year, Kelowna, BC) would tally 7 kills in the first two sets, while Brianna Beamish and Megan Festival (2nd year, Calgary, AB) had 6 and 5 kills to round out a balanced Heat attack.

Up 2-0, the Heat would continue their strong play into the third set, but Manitoba would be first to the technical timeout at 16-14. The game would unravel somewhat for the Heat from then on out, as they were unable to close out the Bisons in both the third and fourth sets.

In the fifth the Heat would succumb to an early 4-2 deficit, but would regroup behind Klomps’ two big blocks at 9-8 to go ahead 10-8, and they would return to the form that saw them so dominant in the first two sets to win 15-11.

“I’m very proud with how our team responded tonight,” remarked Manuel. “We’ve had a hard time finding our stride these past few weeks, so it’s great to see us playing well again. We’ve played such a tough schedule over the past three weeks.”

Despite nine total service aces and one of the most well-rounded offensive games played all season, by far and large the most impressive component of the Heat’s victory was their ability to regroup in the fifth set and persevere. The Heat refused to buckle under the Bison pressure, showing a level of maturity that the Heat will need to draw upon as they head into the final weekend series of the regular season and into the playoffs.

“I’m feeling good about the character these girls showed tonight,” added Manuel.

There are still a multitude of scenarios that may or may not run their course in the last two games of the regular season, but all signs point to a first-round rematch between the Heat and Bisons. When asked if this game was a confidence booster for his club if in fact the playoff scenario works out with the Bisons hosting, Manuel had this to say:

“I’m feeling good about tonight, but that’s where it ends. Next time we play it will be completely different – that’s just Canada West volleyball. But anything can happen come playoff time.”

The Heat will return home for their final two games of the regular season next weekend, February 7th and 8th, against a Regina Cougars who also clinched a playoff berth on Saturday night and are looking to improve their positioning.

Saturday, February 8th, will be Senior’s Night at UBC’s Okanagan campus gymnasium, as the Heat will honour their three graduating athletes: Lenai Schmidt, Jillian Festival, and Kendra Wayling. First serve on Saturday is at 5 p.m.