VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds women’s volleyball team defeated the UBC Okanagan Heat in four sets to win the Canada West bronze medal this afternoon in Edmonton. Thanks to the win, the Thunderbirds will be heading to CIS Women’s Volleyball Championship in Toronto next weekend, their eighth straight trip the national tournament. Set scores were 13-25, 25-20, 25-19 and 25-15.

“That match had four factors we had to overcome,” noted UBC head coach Doug Reimer, “the pressure of the national championship berth on the line, a short turnaround from a tough loss last night, no time to prepare for the opponent and we got absolutely shelled in the first set. The fact that we won shows the growth this team has had this year, and I’m just really proud of the effort and our ability to finish sets even when it isn’t going perfect for us.”

Rosie Schlagintweit (Abbotsford, B.C.) led UBC with 17 kills while teammates Danielle Brisebois (Bolton, Ont.) and Lisa Barclay (Brandon, Man.) were close behind with 16 and 12, respectively.

Setter Alessandra Gentile proved invaluable on both offence and defence with her 41 assists and nine digs this evening.

Okanagan dominated the latter half of the opening set to take a 1-0 match lead. The Heat, a program that was ranked in the CIS top two for much of the season, cranked out 11 kills, a .308 hitting percentage and three aces. Canada West first team all-star Katy Klomps was a force for UBCO, recording four kills and a sterling .800 hitting percentage to pace the Heat to the first set win.

The T-Birds roared to life in the second as they put together a six-point run to pick up a 15-4 lead that morphed into a 16-9 advantage at the technical timeout. UBC closed out the set 25-20 to bring the match to 1-1.

“I think, after that first set, the fact that we rebounded to win the second set was the key to this win,” said Reimer. “We obviously didn’t play well in the first, we still weren’t great in the second, but we got the match to level footing, and from there we started playing the kind of game we are capable of playing.”

Things looked good for the Heat at the outset of the third as they opened the proceedings with a 6-0 run but the Thunderbirds replied with a 12-2 run that included four kills each from Schlagintweit and Brisebois. A Schlagintweit service ace later on put UBC ahead 22-15, which effectively sealed the set win.

After taking the third set 25-19, the Birds got a strong performance from 2014 CIS player of the year Lisa Barclay in the fourth. Barclay, who is originally from Brandon, Man., and is a member of the Canadian national team, picked up three kills in the fourth, including the match winner to finish with 12 kills, one ace, five digs, a .345 hitting percentage and player of the game honours.

“I thought she had a tremendous match,” said Reimer. “Between mono in the first half of the season, and her ankle injury in the second half, it hasn’t been an easy year for her, but you could just see her power and determination tonight. You knew she was going to give everything she had in order for this game not to be her last CIS match. I loved her game today.”

After the tough first set, in which UBC recorded a .034 team hitting percentage, the Thunderbirds finished with an even .300 percentage by match end. They also overcame 19 service errors, but did throw up 14.5 total blocks.

UBC-O, meanwhile, was led by 10 kills each from Megan Festival and Klomps, while Festival also spun a match high four aces and brought up seven digs to earn player of the game honours for the Heat.

The Thunderbirds will now head to Toronto to compete in the CIS national championship tournament, which runs Feb. 26 to March 1 at the University of Toronto. In the 21 years, UBC has missed the nationals just once, in 2007.

– with files from Matt Gutsch (Alberta Pandas Sports Information)