VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds men’s volleyball team downed the UBC Okanagan Heat in straight sets on Saturday night, completing a weekend sweep and extending the team’s winning streak to five games. During their five-game tear, the No. 5 T-Birds have won 15 of the team’s past 20 sets and have made an early season loss against MacEwan University a distant memory.
The Thunderbirds won the first two sets by just two points versus a more a sizeable margin in the final set, with the final score sheet showing scores of 25-23, 26-24, and 25-20.
Irvan Brar was the star for the T-Birds, recording 15 kills, which led all players Saturday. For the sixth straight match, Jim Bell lead UBCO in kills with 10.
“I thought we executed our game plan well, and every time we got away from that we were able to refocus and regroup,” added fifth-year veteran Chris Howe, who provided the game clinching point for UBC. “Some of our younger guys stepped up tonight which helped us be aggressive and get after each point.”
Other than the Alberta Golden Bears, the T-Birds hold a share of the lead for the longest active winning streak in the Canada West, as the team sees their record improve to 7-1, sitting just two points shy of first-place Alberta. The T-Birds completed the weekend sweep thanks to a four-set victory last night against the visiting Heat.
Both teams traded the game’s first 10 points, including two points that were overturned by the official in favour of the Heat, prior to the T-Birds reaching the double digit mark with a 10-7 edge.
Led by two booming kills by Jarrid Ireland, the Thunderbirds extended its lead to five, its biggest advantage in the first set, en route to a 25-23 victory. By no means did the Heat give the Thunderbirds much breathing room, as they turned things around to take a 23-22 advantage. UBCO won three straight points to go ahead late. First, Bell knocked down a kill, then Kristof Schlagintweit won a joust at the net. The third point came on a UBC attacking error, which gave the Heat their first lead since they were up 5-4.
Rookie setter Byron Keturakis came into the match and led the service game over the final three points, vaulting the ‘Birds to the first-set victory.
The Thunderbirds strung together four unanswered points to take an early 6-4 lead in the second set forcing Okanagan head coach Greg Poitras to call a timeout which got the Heat out of a funk. Two huge serves by UBCO’s outside hitter Lars Bornemann pushed the Heat to a brief 12-11 lead, a one-point edge the team would hold for the next eight points.
The Thunderbirds resiliency prevailed, however, as the T-Birds won the second set by a two-point margin for the second set in a row. The Heat had the home team on the ropes with the majority of the set spent in the lead, but never had more than a two-point edge, as UBC stuck around.
Similar trends continued into the third and final set, as the T-Birds couldn’t shake the Heat by a sizeable margin. Thanks to two blocks in the same rally as well as a sneaky dump that fooled the Heat defence on second contact, setter Milan Nikic fueled the T-Birds to a 15-13 advantage midway through the third. Jeremy Fostvelt had a key dig for the Heat a few points later helping the Heat tie the set up at 17-17 but from there on in, the Thunderbirds went on cruise control winning the third set 25-20.
Looking ahead, the Thunderbirds hit the road for a weekend series against the University of Manitoba Bisons in a week’s time. The Bisons are nipping at the heels of the Thunderbirds with a 5-3 record and sit four points behind UBC.
“Moving forward, I think we have to keep challenging each other in practice as well as communicating amongst ourselves to make sure we execute the little plays well,” added Howe post-game. “Some plays are perfect, but if we can make each point easier on ourselves, there’s no doubt we can continue to challenge in the Canada West.”
UBC Okanagan remains winless with a 0-8 record and will look shake things up as the Heat continue with another road series next weekend against the No. 10 ranked University of Winnipeg Wesmen.