Edmonton, AB – With a kill by Brandon’s Frank Jones, the UBC Thunderbirds season culminated with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Brandon University Bobcats in the Canada West bronze medal. Set scores were 25-23, 25-16, and 25-18 in favour of the Bobcats. The match was the last of its kind for libero Ian Perry, middle Chris Howe, and left-side Quentin Schmidt – UBC’s three fifth-year players.
The Thunderbirds were put in the bronze medal match after being defeated in four sets by the top-ranked Alberta Golden Bears.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” said Schmidt. “It was a dogfight to make it as far as we did [in playoffs], but it’s disappointing in hindsight that we didn’t respond better when we were challenged by the other top teams.”
After a competitive first set on Saturday against the Bobcats which saw back and forth action between the two teams, the Thunderbirds’ will seemed to dissipate, and with it the hopes of the program’s first Canada West medal since 2008 – back when assistant coach Matt LeBourdais was in his final year as a player.
In each of the second and third sets the Thunderbirds fell to substantial deficits, ones that proved insurmountable. Brandon’s aggression and efficiency were too great, as they tallied 47 kills while hitting at 38% attack efficiency. Bobcat right-side Sebastien Steigmeier led all players with 14 kills, 15 digs, and two service aces in the match.
Third-year Mac McNicol led the Thunderbirds with 11 kills through three sets, capping off what was a breakout season for the Calgary native. Making the permanent switch to the right-side, McNicol was an asset for UBC all year long. His 296 kills during the regular season led the Thunderbirds and earned him the selection as a Canada West Second Team All-Star.
Perry, with 10 digs and a whole lot of fight for the Thunderbirds, was named UBC’s player of the match. Perry will end his CIS career with 951 regular season digs, placing him second all-time in the Canada West history books. Perry was a key component of the UBC program throughout his career, serving substantial time as both a setter and libero, though the latter is where he will leave behind his legacy as one of UBC’s elite.
Howe and Schmidt will also be forced to move on from CIS volleyball, as their five years of eligibility at the post-secondary level will have expired. Both players came to UBC after first playing two years of college volleyball. Schmidt, coming from Red Deer College, made an immediate impact on the left-side for the Thunderbirds. He ends his career with 451 total kills through 62 matches played in both conference and playoff action.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said Schmidt of his career being over. “But it was an unbelievable life experience, and I got the chance to meet some of the greatest friends ever. It’s going to be strange not to be around this team day in and day out.”
After playing at UBC-Okanagan for two seasons spending one year away from collegiate action, Howe came to UBC to challenge himself both on and off the volleyball court. In his first season in the league, Howe’s 1.37 blocks per set placed him second in Canada West conference play. This season, his fifth, Howe earned a career high 117 total blocks, beating his previous regular season record of 114. He finishes with a 1.15 block per set average in regular season play through his three seasons in the league. Howe, who is currently serving as UBC’s Athletic Council president, will graduate with a bachelor of arts in Sociology this spring, and hopes to continue playing volleyball at the international level.
In a season of ups and downs for the Thunderbirds, they finish fourth in Canada West – only the second time since 2008 that the team has advanced to the Final Four. The 2007-2008 season was also the last that the program made it to CIS nationals.
Although graduating several key components, the Thunderbirds will return a core of quality players.
“I’m excited to watch the young guys continue to grow and develop as players, and to follow the program’s success in the future,” said Schmidt. “I can’t thank this program enough for what it’s given to me. All that I can ask is for cheap drinks for alumni in the beer gardens at home games.”