by Dan Elliott
February 21, 2014, Vancouver (ISN) – The six-time defending CIS champion UBC Thunderbirds will be back at nationals again next week looking to make it a record seven-straight titles after conference MVP Lisa Barclay led them to a win over UBC Okanagan in the Canada West semifinals 3-1 (25-17, 25-14, 22-25, 25-21) on Friday night at War Memorial Gym.
The T-Birds will also take on the winner of the Trinity Western-Manitoba semifinal on Saturday in the conference gold medal game. Both conference finalists will qualify for the CIS tournament, as well as the third-place finisher.
Recently crowned MVP Barclay set the tone on Friday, and she set it early. She racked up 10 kills in just the first set on her way to a 27-kill night in which she hit .447 with an ace and a solo block.
Mariah Bruinsma also had a very effective night, assisting on seven of UBC’s nine blocks and adding two aces and three kills. And the efforts of libero Briana Liau Kent can’t be overlooked either. She led all players by a mile with 23 digs, and was a blur in the third and fourth sets, getting tougher and tougher to beat as the Heat turned things on late in hopes of a comeback.
The Heat came out looking like a different team in the third set after the T-Birds breezed through the first two. Middle blocker Katy Klomps and outside hitter Brianna Beamish led the squad to a win in the third set, and they were knocking on the door in the fourth, trailing just 23-21 after having fallen behind by six earlier on. But a couple sneaky kills from Schlagintweit and Juliana Kaufmanis ended their comeback hopes, forcing them to play for their playoff lives on Saturday.
Beamish finished with 13 kills to lead the Heat. Klomps knocked down six kills on just 11 attacks in the middle, and she had four block assists. The Heat struggled to get any rhythm going offensively, hitting in the negatives for the first two sets and finishing with a .092 team hitting percentage.
Set one was all T-Birds, and to be more specific, it was all Barclay. She had 10 of UBC’s 15 kills in the set in just 14 swings, propelling the T-Birds to a .340 hitting percentage while the Heat hit -.080.
In set two, the offence was a little more evenly distributed for UBC, but the defence was just as dominant. UBC took a quick 3-0 lead to force a Heat timeout, and then went up 8-2 before cruising to another easy win. They held the Heat to a negative hitting percentage again, and they got four kills each from Barclay and Schlagintweit to take a 2-0 lead.
The third set started out the same, with UBC going up 3-0 to force a UBCO timeout. This one seemed to work a lot better though, as the Heat quickly surged ahead 9-6 thanks in part to some nice serving from Klomps, including a pair of aces. After UBC made it 9-7, the Heat went on a 5-0 lead on Michelle Jakszuk’s serve to make it a 14-7 lead, and the T-Birds were in too deep a hole to recover from.
The Thunderbirds will take on the winner of the Trinity Western-Manitoba semifinal for the conference title on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Heat play the loser of that match Saturday at 5 p.m. for third place and the final CIS berth.