by Cary Mellon
February 21, 2014, VANCOUVER, BC (ISN) – Facing the defending six-time CIS National Champions, the UBC Okanagan Heat women’s volleyball team would give the UBC Thunderbirds everything they had, but newly-crowned Canada West MVP Lisa Barclay would take over and the Thunderbirds would hold off a late Heat rally in the fourth set to hand UBC Okanagan the 3-1 (25-17, 25-14, 22-25, 25-21) loss Friday night from War Memorial Gymnasium.
The Heat will now play for the Canada West Bronze and the final spot in the CIS national championship on Saturday (Feb 22) against the Trinity Western Spartans, who lost 3-0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-23) to Manitoba, with first serve scheduled for 5 p.m. from War Memorial Gym.
“Just stick to the plan and play our style of volleyball and take care of business on our side of the net and everything will take care of itself,” voiced Heat head coach Steve Manuel prior to the game Friday night, but there was no answer on their side of the net for the Canada West’s best in Barclay.
Barclay finished with 27 kills and 29 points – Canada West conference playoff match records – which proved too hot to handle for the Heat in the semi-final. Rosie Schlagintweit would finish with 12 kills behind Barclay, while Juliana Kaufmanis would add 8 kills in UBC’s victory.
“We showed lots of fight, and we showed zero fear,” said Heat head coach Steve Manuel following the semi-final loss. “If you take those first two sets out of the equation, we were right there with [UBC]. We just started too late is all.”
Playing the role of the underdog for the second straight weekend, UBC Okanagan looked unfazed by the stature of their opponent to begin the game, and the Heat and Thunderbirds would go point-for-point in the first set to reach a standstill at 11-11. It was then that Lisa Barclay would begin to take over, connecting on four kills in the following six points to give UBC the lead 16-12. She would finish with 14 kills after the first two sets.
The Heat knew they had to have a big performance from Brianna Beamish (3rd year, Surrey, BC), and she would awake in the third set to rally the Heat offense in their 25-22 set victory. Beamish had six kills in the frame for UBC Okanagan, and would finish the game with 13 kills to lead the Heat offense. The junior outside hitter was supported by seven kills from Katie Wuttunee (3rd year, North Vancouver, BC), six from Katy Klomps (3rd year, Surrey, BC), and five from Kaitlynn Given (2nd year, Kelowna, BC). Canada West All-Rookie team member Michelle Jakszuk saw considerable playing time, and would add three kills and two block assists for UBC Okanagan.
“I thought we didn’t show much in the first two sets,” added Manuel. “I am very proud of how we came out in the third set”
Two big blocks by Schlagintweit and Mariah Bruinsma would quickly give UBC the 6-3 advantage in the fourth set, but kills from Wuttunee, Klomps, Michelle Jakszuk (1st year, Gibsons, BC), and Brianna Beamish would bring the Heat within one at 10-9. UBC would buckle down, however, and with two Barclay kills and two service aces in the following seven points, the Thunderbirds would reach the technical timeout up 16-10.
A large deficit, but not insurmountable, and the Heat would regain their composure to win the following three points to come within three, 16-13. The Heat had a chance to force a fifth set with two kills by Beamish and Kaitlynn Given but Barclay and Schlagintweit would shut the door on a 25-22 fourth set victory for the T-Birds.
“We were right in there, pushing those guys around,” explained Manuel. “We just couldn’t get over that three-point hump in that set.”
UBC Okanagan knew that they had to win the battle at the service line to have a chance versus UBC, and the Heat did just that, forcing 16 service errors on the Thunderbirds while connecting on six service aces as a team.
They had the balance on offense they needed as well – all four of UBC’s losses this season came when their opponent had four attackers with 5+ kills.
But Barclay’s performance was masterful, and the Heat had difficulties slowing her down defensively, losing the battle on the block 9-7.
“They played well like they always do,” finished Manuel. “We had a tough time executing what we wanted to, which I think just came down to some nerves and a little bit of inexperience.”
With their wins in the Canada West Final Four, UBC and Manitoba have punched their ticket the 2014 CIS Women’s Volleyball Championship will be held February 28th to March 2nd at the University of Regina in Regina, SK. The Bisons and host T’Birds play for the Canada West championship on Saturday night at War Memorial Gym at 7 p.m.
Coach Manuel’s thoughts at the serve and volley Friday morning prior to the historic match at the school’s first Canada West championship:
“I think that our morning so far has been really good. I thought we were sharp, relaxed but excited at the same time. They [his team] aren’t acting like we are playing against the No. 1 team in the country. [We are] Just preparing like we normally would. It’s obviously a good match against a very good team. But I think we’re ready and ready to do what we need to do. If we can execute our gameplan, I think we can be successful.”
Manuel’s thoughts on the underdog role and if it plays as an advantage for the Heat:
“We’ve been an underdog for 10 of my 13 years as coach [at UBC Okanagan]. When we moved to CIS, we became just that college team again and in 2.5 years we’ve proved that we are so much more than that and that we are a legitimately top CIS team in the country.”