Better defense beats good offense in valley standoff
By Kevin Ilomin on January 15, 2015
Rematch Saturday in Kamloops.
Women’s Volleyball (Canada West conference play)
|(2) UBC Okanagan
|Thompson Rivers (7-12)||22||25||17||20||1|
|UBC Okanagan (15-4)||25||23||25||25||3|
KELOWNA, BC – The upstart Thompson Rivers WolfPack women’s volleyball team was in Kelowna Thursday night for the first of the annual home-and-home weekend series, but the No. 2 UBC Okanagan Heat would budge very little as they captured the match victory 3-1 to extend their league streak to eleven (25-22, 23-25, 25-17, 25-20).
Second-year outside Michelle Jakszuk (Gibsons, BC) was the Heat’s Player of the Game behind a monster defensive showing of a match-leading seven block assists and two solo blocks to go with her nine kills.
Billed as giant-slayers already in a turnaround season from back-to-back years as bottom feeders, the now seven-win WolfPack have taken down the likes of the UBC Thunderbirds, Brandon Bobcats and defending national champion Manitoba Bisons so far this season, and they were salivating at the chance to bring down the conference leading Heat down a notch.
“They control the ball well, they keep coming at you hard,” said Heat coach Steve Manuel postgame. “They play a different style than a lot of Canada West teams, and I think that’s why they’ve been so successful, because you have to expect the unexpected against them. They kept us off balance … it’s good for us to play that style of team.”
Thompson Rivers wasted no time in pouncing on another top-tier target as they opened up a 5-0 stretch to start things off in the first. Third-year Heat middle Katy Klomps would finally get on board and her team would go on a 14-1 run to go up 14-6. The ‘Pack would come within breath of the Kelowna squad but ultimately the home team escaped 25-22.
Entrenched in the second set, neither team gave much room for the other to maneuver early on until Thompson Rivers managed a 4-0 run to take an 11-7 lead that was sparked by a pair of strong kills by fourth-year outside Alyssa Wolf. On the ropes and still down 23-21 later on, a last-minute timeout by Manuel would not make a difference as a message-sending spike by Ukrainian product and star Iuliia Pakhomenko moved the match to 1-1.
UBC Okanagan hit their stride in the third set, getting out to a comfy 16-7 lead behind a slew of tough serves from fourth-year Brianna Beamish (Surrey, BC) and third-year Emily Oxland (North Vancouver, BC). They would lead by as many as twelve points before putting away Thompson Rivers 25-17. Tough serving and better shot selection at the net aided the home team’s efforts for the frame.
The fourth and final set would sound a similar tune to the last. Outstanding defense by the Heat at the net would eventually wear down the ‘Pack as a pair of errors sealed the night for the home team.
UBC Okanagan’s fourth-year outside hitter Brianna Beamish had five of her 13 kills in the first set. Pakhomenko also netted five kills in the first, but would win the battle of star outsides with a match-high 20 kills on 52 attempts.
“She’s obviously a force,” said Manuel. “I think what we need to do is respect and always know where she is on the court at all times. We need to be getting hands on the ball and slowing it down with our block, and make sure we’re in the right position to be able to play defense. We’re not going to stop her. If we can manage her and stay on top of the other players I think we’ll be OK.”
Alyssa Wolf posted 12 kills behind Pakhomenko alongside one service ace, while Megan Festival joined Beamish in double-digits on the Heat side with 10 kills while adding 15 digs.
The Heat’s Kailin Jones (Kelowna, BC) led the match with 20 digs, followed closely by Thompson Rivers’ Brianna Rauch’s 19. Setter Emily Oxland led the match with 32 assists for the Heat side. The Heat would also record seven service aces in the effort to their opponents’ five.
Superior defense won out against a hotter offense, as the Heat’s 26 blocks eclipsed the WolfPack’s four, and balanced out the kill differential that was 49-44 in favour of the visitors. Klomps would record seven block assists and one solo block in the effort.
UBC Okanagan improves to 15-4 to remain atop the conference, while Thompson Rivers remains at 7-12, still one game out of the race for the final playoff seed.
Both teams will meet again for the second of the home-and-home series in Kamloops on Saturday. Match time is set for 5 p.m.
Watch the action online and stream live stats at canadawest.tv
HEAT NOTES…The Heat have not dropped a match since November 1st in a contest with the UBC Thunderbirds in Vancouver. If not for the 3-2 loss the Okanagan team would perfect in all play through two and a half months…Senior outside hitter Myrte Schon continues to up her time on the floor as well as her impact on the team’s game. Said Manuel of his veteran’s short but impactful time tonight: “She played great in Montreal, and last weekend against Calgary. She’s been awesome in practice, very efficient, and doing great things. She needs to be out there. We need what she’s doing right now. She’s deserving every second of time she gets out there.”