Heat sweep weekend versus champs to get back to Final Four
By Kevin Ilomin on February 14, 2015
Rachel Cockrell has record 29 kills and nearly lifts team to series tie, but UBC Okanagan stays the course and coasts in final two sets for 3-2 match and weekend victory at home (25-15, 20-25, 21-25, 25-14, 15-3).
Women’s Volleyball (Canada West postseason play)
|(2) UBC Okanagan
|Manitoba (13-11 CW, 0-2 PS)||15||25||25||14||3||2|
|UBC Okanagan (19-5 CW, 2-0 PS)||25||20||21||25||15||3|
Rachel Cockrell has record 29 kills and nearly lifts team to series tie, but UBC Okanagan stays the course and coasts in final two sets for 3-2 match and weekend victory at home (25-15, 20-25, 21-25, 25-14, 15-3)
KELOWNA, B.C. – Canada West regular season MVP Rachel Cockrell put on a virtuoso performance and shattered a record, but the host UBC Okanagan Heat women’s volleyball team found fire in the latter stages of their Saturday quarterfinals match with Manitoba to win 3-2 (25-15, 20-25, 21-25, 25-14, 15-3).
The five-set victory sends the Heat back to the Final Four as the No. 2 ranked team in the country unseated the defending CIS national champions.
“We were really happy to play them, we respect them a lot,” said Heat starting setter Chandler Proch, speaking to her team’s chance to play a distinguished squad like Manitoba.
29 kills by Cockrell set a new all-time single-match playoff record, formerly held by Lisa Barclay of the UBC Thunderbirds set at 27 coincidently also against UBC Okanagan last February at the Canada West Final Four.
UBC Okanagan started things where they left off a night prior when they swept Manitoba in straight sets, taking the first frame Saturday 25-15.
The reigning MVP and First-Team All-Star Cockrell would put the Bisons on her shoulders, literally and figuratively, as she pounded away at one of the league’s best defenses at the net. Buoyed by her efforts, Manitoba would make the weekend a series when they captured the second set 25-20.
Cockrell would not cool off, recording her 18th kill early on in the third set. Completely in sync with setter Brittany Habing and adapting her attack with a variety of moves, the third-year hitter powered the Bisons to a third set victory 25-21 to go up 2-1 over the Heat.
“They did an outstanding job of putting us off balance, and doing the things that they had to do,” said Heat coach Steve Manuel following the match. “We knew that we still had it in us. We weren’t controlling the ball well, we weren’t serving as well as we could.”
The usually staunch blocking might of the Heat was a little more absent through the first three sets, but not so in the fourth, as league leader in total blocks Katy Klomps went on to record her first two solo blocks in that frame. It was also in the fourth that Player of the Game Michelle Jakszuk also began cranking up her game from off the bench, while third-year Brianna Beamish began heating up from the wings. The Heat would rebound mightily to take the fourth set 25-14 to force a fifth.
The match would become the Heat’s ninth fifth-set match of the season by that point, after they had gone 5-3 in the regular season. The Bisons meanwhile had a 3-4 record for sudden deaths.
Beamish would get on the board first, while setter Chandler Proch then proceeded to serve up four tough rallies and the Heat got out to a commanding 5-0 start. Jakszuk, Klomps, and fellow fourth-year middle Katie Wuttunee shut the doors at the net from then out and the Heat surged to a 10-2 lead to force a final timeout from Manitoba.
The Bisons managed only one more point and an attack error by Cockrell—her 76th swing of the night—sealed the advancement for the Kelowna squad.
“’Let’s weather the storm, let’s not get in a panic, let’s just keep going at them,’ and then things started going for us and we were good from there,” Manuel added. “Kudos to the team for staying calm and focused on the task at hand.”
“We just really wanted to focus on our service game,” Proch chimed in as well. “We were giving it to them a little easy and then it was even easier to set up Rachel [Cockrell]. She’s too good of a hitter … we just had to make it a little tougher on them from the end line. And then we were able to counter some of their serves better and get it up to the setter, which I really appreciated.”
Player of the Game Jakszuk wrapped up with 12 kills and five blocks on the night coming off of the bench. “A huge weapon, huge blocks, some huge touches and big swings, that was big,” Manuel said of his second-year hitter.
Beamish put in a highly efficient night with a team-high 20 kills on 40 attempts. Canada West Second-Team All-Star Katie Wuttunee finished with 10 kills and three blocks.
Libero Kailin Jones dug up 21 balls for the Heat, while Beamish and Megan Festival each chipped in 15 digs.
Habing led the match with 36 assists for the Bisons, almost exclusively to Cockrell, and added a team-high 12 digs with two service aces. First-year Kalena Schulz put down five kills and recorded ten digs.
Third-year Sarah Klassen led the defensive efforts of the Bisons with six blocks. Cockrell added four just behind her.
Once again the Heat served it tough, particularly in the fourth and fifth sets, and wrapped up with ten service aces. Beamish had the most with four.
UBC Okanagan is now 2-0 in postseason play as they advance to the Final Four hosted by the University of Alberta next weekend. Manitoba is now eliminated from the postseason 0-2 in the quarterfinals.
The Heat will now prepare to face the second-seeded Trinity Western Spartans next Thursday at 6:30 p.m. PST at the Saville Sports Centre.
Watch all of the Final Four action online at canadawest.tv.
The Heat split the season series with Trinity Western over ten sets for a home weekend series in Kelowna October 17-18. Trinity would capture the Friday match 3-2 while UBC Okanagan rebounded a night later to win 3-2. Both nights were very tightly contested, and next weekend’s playoff matchup promises to have more than a few sparks flying.
For Steve Manuel, the preparation starts now as his team is already past their series with Manitoba.
“No party,” he said with regards to celebrating their first-round win. “This is just one more step. It’s business as usual. In all honesty, we’re back at work at seven o’clock tomorrow morning preparing for our next opponent next week. And we’re back in the gym here next Monday. This is not celebration time, this is, ‘We’re one step further,’ and now we prep for our next opponent and go from there.”
Veteran Proch echoed her coach’s sentiments, adding that she feels confident her team can take the next step forward at the Final Four and possibly make nationals this year.
“Every year has been a stepping stone with this team,” Proch said, this now being her third straight trip to the postseason with the Heat. “This year it feels good, it feels like we’re ready, that we’re peaking, and I feel that we’ll be ready next weekend. It’s going to be a quick turnaround and we’ve got a lot of work to do in the meantime, but it’s time to look forward, and leave it all out there.”