VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds women’s volleyball team dug deep for a dramatic five-set victory (25-23, 23-25, 25-15, 20-25 and 15-11) over the No. 3-ranked UBC Okanagan Heat at War Memorial Gym in Vancouver on Saturday.
The Thunderbirds battled back from a 8-3 deficit in the fifth set in order to claim the big win. The two teams gave the fans a lot to cheer about throughout the evening, as the match was punctuated by long rallies and many dramatic moments.
UBC head coach Doug Reimer remarked that once again his team had risen to the occasion after facing adversity during the match.
“We had a lot of contributions tonight,” said Reimer, pointing to how his players stepped up to fill the gap left by injured veterans Rosie Schlaginweit and Lisa Barclay. “Danielle (Brisebois) gave us a huge lift in the third set, and I was also really pleased with how Alessandra (Gentile) ran the offence. She made good choices, and I was encouraged by those improvements.”
Things looked rocky for the Thunderbirds early on in the final set. Reigning CIS Player of the Year Lisa Barclay, who was appearing in only her second match of the year due to illness, went down on the first point with a sprained ankle. From here, the Heat broke out to an 8-3 lead over the Thunderbirds. Erin Drew was instrumental in pushing her team ahead early, as she provided a solo block, a service ace and a kill as part of the 8-3 run.
Alissa Coulter was instrumental in turning things around for UBC, as the T-Birds won straight five points with her serving. This allowed the T-Birds to cap off a 9-1 run. A decisive ace from Samantha Patko gave the home side the comeback victory, 15-11.
UBCO extended the match by winning a dramatic fourth set. With a score tied 17-17, the Heat managed to capture eight of the next 12 points in order to take the match into a fifth-and-deciding set, led by their offensive powerhouse Brianna Beamish. The Heat won four straight points on her serve and then Megan Festival provided a big kill to put UBCO up 22-18 and then knocked down another to clinch the set for the visitors. She ultimately had 18 kills on the evening, the most of any player on the court.
UBC dominated the early parts of the opening set, taking a 16-7 lead, thanks in part to three kills from Barclay. Gentile served UBC to four consecutive points, including an ace that sent the two teams to the technical time out. Beamish led the comeback striking five kills to bring her team to within one point at 22-23, but the T-Birds got their final two points on service errors.
The tables turned in the second set, however, as the Heat came out blazing to even things up. UBCO pulled ahead to a 17-10 lead before T-Birds livened up and proceeded to win eight of the next nine points to tie the teams at 18 apiece. Barclay put UBC ahead 23-22 but the Heat won the final three points, on kills from Festival and Katie Wuttunee and a UBC service error, to steal the set.
The third set was UBC’s most dominant, thanks to huge offensive contributions from Danielle Brisebois (six kills) and Nicola Laniuk (two aces, a kill and a solo block).
In addition to Beamish’s 18 kills, the Heat got 11 from Festival and 10 from Wuttunee.
Despite being injured early in the fifth set, Barclay led her team with 15 kills, one block and one ace. Brisebois had 12 kills.
UBC is now 5-3 on the season, while UBCO is 4-4. Both teams will travel to Winnipeg next weekend. The Thunderbirds will face the University of Manitoba Bisons while the Heat will battle the University of Winnipeg Wesmen.
UBC’s match on Friday, November 7 will commence at 4 p.m. PT and a live stream will be available at canadawest.tv.