Vancouver, BC – The Winnipeg Wesmen rallied from a 2-1 deficit to defeat the UBC Thunderbirds in five sets (29-27, 16-25, 25-27, 25-17, 15-12). UBC (9-5) and Winnipeg (9-3) are tied with 18 points in the Canada West standings, however the Wesmen have two games in hand.
After losing a tough third set to go down 2-1, the Wesmen took advantage of UBC’s sloppy play in the fourth set. Trailing 5-3, Winnipeg went on a 9-1 run to go up 12-6, the bulk of which can be attributed to UBC attack errors. Winnipeg would not look back, cruising to a 25-17 set win on the strength of four kills from Casey Schouten to send the match to a fifth and deciding set.
Winnipeg jumped out to a 6-4 lead, before allowing UBC back in it with three service errors. Back to back kills from Brendan Black put the visitors in front 11-9, however UBC would tie it up after Chris Howe and Jarrid Ireland combined for a block on Thomas Douglas-Powell. Not to be deterred Douglas-Powell would serve up an ace to get the Wesmen back in front 13-11 and then Joshua McKay sealed the victory with a setter dump and a serve that would hit the tape and drop in for the winning point, 15-12 was the final.
“Both sides battled pretty hard,” said UBC assistant coach Matt Lebourdais. “Games like tonight I think are made up of the guys who are going to make plays down the stretch to win those close games. It’s a little frustrating to not be able to pull one of those out tonight.”
Casey Schouten had a massive game for Winnipeg with 20 kills and nine digs. Douglas-Powell finished with 17 kills and nine digs, while Black had 12 kills. McKay tallied 51 assists.
“Winnipeg made the play when they needed to and won some of those tight ones against us, so I have to give them kudos,” added Lebourdais.
Winnipeg jumped out to a 12-8 first set led on the strength of four kills from Schouten. However, the Thunderbirds would not go away tying the set at 16-16. The set would be tied 10 more times before a Black kill followed by a McNicol attack error resulted in a 29-27 set win for Winnipeg.
The Thunderbirds responded in the second set on the strength of Milan Nikic‘s serving. Three aces from UBC’s setter gave the home side a 16-8 lead at the technical timeout. Winnipeg got within five, but that is as close as they would come. McNicol finished the set off with a kill, 25-16.
Like the first set, the third set was back and fourth. An ace from Schouten and back-to-back kills from Douglas-Powell gave Winnipeg a 11-8 advantage. Brar’s kill tied the set at 16-16 and then UBC would go up 24-22. Winnipeg fended off three set points before McNicol ended things will one of his 13 kills, 27-25 UBC.
The Thunderbirds will round out regular season play prior to the Christmas break next weekend in Saskatoon against the University of Saskatchewan while Winnipeg will play host to Mount Royal.
“Always tough going into Saskatchewan’s barn, but hopefully the guys will be motivated after this weekend,” said Lebourdais.