VANCOUVER — An arduous match in UBC’s War Memorial Gymnasium culminated with a fortunate service ace for the No. 1-ranked Alberta Golden Bears, sealing a four-set victory over the No. 4 UBC Thunderbirds. Set scores were 25-16, 23-25, 25-21, 28-26 in favour of Alberta.
“They came out making a lot of good plays,” said UBC’s setter Milan Nikic. “As soon as we weathered that storm, we realized that we had opportunities to get the ball to the floor.”
A proficient defensive effort by Alberta, led by right-side Kevin Proudfoot, was key in the Golden Bears’ victory. Proudfoot led both teams with 14 digs on the match.
UBC stepped up their offensive output in the latter stages of the game, despite Alberta’s strong defensive play. The Thunderbirds attacked at an efficient 31 per cent on the match. Comparatively, however, Alberta was able to hold a 39 per cent success rate through the match.
Second-year left-side Irvan Brar had 14 kills for the Thunderbirds, tying right-side Mac McNicol for the team lead.
Brar noted the Thunderbirds’ side of the net as the focal point moving forward.
“We need to key on our defence – there were too many plays left out there,” he said.
The Thunderbirds had chances to send the game into a fifth set. After trailing at the technical timeout of the fourth set, a seven-point run with Chris Howe at the service line saw UBC take a 21-16 lead. A 6-1 reply by Alberta capped off by a solo block by Barnes tied the set at 22-22. Two set points for the Thunderbirds were fought off by Alberta, and a service ace off the top of the net by Proudfoot ended the set at 28-26, and gave the Golden Bears their 11th victory in as many games this season.
Barnes attributes the Golden Bears success this season to a well-distributed offensive system.
“We definitely have an attack mentality,” said Barnes. “We try to incorporate everyone in our offense – we’re fairly well balanced.”
At the helm of the offensive distribution, setter Brett Walsh earned 57 assists for Alberta in the four-set match.
With the loss, the Thunderbirds fall to 8-3 in conference play, holding the third spot in the conference behind Alberta and Winnipeg.
Setter Nikic tallied 42 assists in the match for UBC. He noted the Thunderbirds saw success when they were able to utilize the middle attack.
“When we pass well and set the middles it opens up a lot of our other hitters, and gives us a lot of court to hit at,” said Nikic.
UBC’s middles were efficient when they did see the ball on Friday night. Alex Russell had 11 kills with no errors in the match, while Chris Howe tallied six kills on seven attempts.
UBC head coach Richard Schick iterated the necessity for the team to perform consistently throughout the match, especially in the latter stages of sets.
“There are opportunities to make plays, especially after 20 [points] that we are sometimes missing,” said Schick. “If we can make those plays down the stretch, we’ll be fine.”
The two teams will face again on Saturday night at War Memorial Gymnasium. The match starts at 7 p.m. PT and can be viewed live via canadawest.tv.