T-Birds fight back to win five-set thriller in Kamloops

Mac McNicol

VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds men’s volleyball team came from behind to defeat the Thompson Rivers WolfPack in five sets on Friday night in Kamloops, B.C.

The set scores were: 21-25, 25-20, 24-26, 25-22, and 15-10.
Offensively, Mac McNicol lead the ‘Birds with 20 kills and a .486 hitting percentage. Teammate Ben Chow added 16 kills on the night. Setters Byron Keturakis and Milan Nikic recorded 27 and 26 assists, respectively.  

McNicol and Chow combined for five kills early in the fifth set to push UBC out to an 8-4 lead at the technical timeout. A TRU attack error coming out of the timeout put the T-Birds up 9-4. The WolfPack chipped away at their deficit and closed to 11-9 but two kills from Chow and one each from MacNicol and Alex Russell allowed UBC to close out the match.

Leading two sets to one, TRU looked ready to clinch the match in the fourth set, jumping out to a 7-0 lead. The T-Birds replied by claiming seven of the next nine points, eventually leading to a Casey Knight attack error that allowed UBC to tie the set at 13-13. The two teams went back and forth, tying the set seven more times before a McNicol kill capped off a 5-2 UBC run to finish off the proceedings.
“Thompson Rivers played very well. They put us into a bit of trouble on serve receive,” said UBC head coach Richard Schick. “I thought we really dug deep in the fourth set, being down 7-0 to start but coming back to take the set. That momentum just carried from there into the fifth.

Byron Keturakis came in when we were down 7-0 and he ran a very nice offence. Mac McNicol was put into good situations and had nine kills in the last two sets. Jarrid Ireland went in for Irvan (Brar) and did a really good job blocking. He passed the ball well once he settled down. He hit some big shots for us and got some big blocks. Those guys definitely turned the tide of the match in our favour. For us to bounce back in that fourth set and push it to a fifth was a massive win for us.”

After splitting the first two sets of the match, TRU claimed the third by capturing four of the last five points. With the WolfPack leading 24-23, Chris Howe knocked down a kill to tie the set 24-24 but the home team won the next two points. 
The comeback victory moves UBC to 4-1 on the season, and into a four-way tie for second place in the Canada West with Manitoba, Winnipeg, and Trinity Western.
The T-Birds will finish off their road trip tomorrow evening with a 6:45 p.m. rematch against TRU. A live stream of the game will be available at canadawest.tv.