by Lee Dorner (Sports Information Assistant)
February 13, 2014, VANCOUVER (ISN) – Sebastien Steigmeier led the Brandon Bobcats back from a 2-0 deficit to upset the UBC Thunderbirds in game one of their Canada West best-of-three quarter-final 3-2 (20-25, 20-25, 25-16, 25-22, 15-9) on Thursday night at War Memorial Gym.
The first half of the fifth set was an intense battle full of long rallies, producing a 7-7 tie before Steigmeier sent the teams to break with his 27th kill of the game. But that was the start of an 8-2 run for the Bobcats to close out the match, with Sam Tuivai getting three big points, including an ace for the match-winner, during that stretch.
For the first two sets, Steigmeier was about the only bright spot for the Bobcats. The fourth-year outside hitter had 13 kills through two sets on only 22 attacks, but nobody else was getting anything going against the UBC block. The T-Birds sided out at over 80 per cent in each of the first two sets.
But things shifted dramatically in the third, when it was Brandon with the 87 per cent sideout rate and the T-Birds started missing chances on both sides of the ball. Serve receive and passing issues started popping up at inopportune times for the ‘Birds, and missed defensive assignments left a few free kills for the Bobcats as well.
“Brandon picked it up and they weren’t making as many errors as they did in the first two sets, but really we just weren’t capitalizing on opportunities,” UBC head coach Richard Schick said in reference to the momentum swing after set two. “We had a lot of them, especially in the third set, and I guess we thought maybe they would give it to us in the fourth and didn’t make enough plays in the fifth.”
Steigmeier was undoubtedly the man of the match. He kept the Bobcats afloat when nothing else was going particularly well for them, and continued his hot play right through the final whistle, ending up with 27 kills on 50 attacks. He also had a solo block and four block assists.
“There were far too many times when we didn’t even have a block on him, so it wasn’t always smart play by us, but he’s definitely a solid player and he came to play tonight,” Schick said of Steigmeier. “He was the difference for them, really. He was the guy that won it for them.”
Tuivai really turned it on beginning in the third set, finishing with 15 kills and two aces, including a great sniper shot to find a hole in the defence on match point. Dan Boutwell had 11 kills on 17 attacks out of the middle, adding a solo block. Frank Jones led the blocking effort with six assists and one solo for the Bobcats.
Ben Chow’s huge night was overshadowed by the loss and Steigmeier’s performance, but his 24 kills on 49 attacks cannot be overlooked. He also racked up 11 of those just in sets four and five, staying sharp even when the game was turning in Brandon’s favour. He also had five aces at the service line and one solo block.
Despite being big favourites on paper heading into this series as the two-seed versus the seven-seed at home, Schick said his side was well aware that the Bobcats, who won the Canada West last year and took bronze at nationals, are capable of much better volleyball than their 10-12 regular season record indicates.
“It comes down to us being up 2-0 and having opportunities to win 3-0, and if we do that, we’re not even having this conversation. We’re not taking them lightly at all, and we know what they are capable of doing. We know what their guys are playing like and we saw one take over the match today, so we have to be better tomorrow.”
The T-Birds face a must-win situation on Friday night at 7 p.m. when they play game two at War Memorial Gym. If UBC wins, game three will go Saturday at 2 p.m. The winner of the series advances to the Canada West Final Four at Trinity Western next week.