Game one of first place showdown goes to UBC Okanagan

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ubc ok wom volleyball

The UBC Okanagan women’s volleyball team held serve on home court dropping the Alberta Pandas in four sets to win the Friday night matchup of these two national contenders. Rematch will go tomorrow at 5 p.m. (PST) at UBC Okanagan

KELOWNA, BC –  After losing a tough first set 25-14 on Friday night in the UBC Okanagan gymnasium, the UBC Okanagan Heat won the next three sets 25-14, 25-20, and 25-21, to hand the University of Alberta Pandas women’s volleyball team their second loss of the season. With Alberta coming into the match ranked No. 1 in the CIS Top Ten, the Heat have a chance to take the top spot.

While every one of the sets was close, with the two top-ranked teams trading leads throughout, the Heat were able to pull away at the end of each of the final three straight sets thanks to a steady barrage of attacks, notching 50 kills to the Pandas’ 40 for the match. That power was provided for the most part by Brianna Beamish (14 kills), Michelle Jakszuk (12 kills), Megan Festival (11 kills), and Katie Wuttunee (9 kills).

After the game, UBC Okanagan head coach Steve Manuel, when asked whether the powerful performance was a specific strategy for dealing with a team like the University of Alberta,  said, “I’d say it’s more something we’ve been working on since we came back from the break, we’ve really been working on fine tuning our offence and running certain things and hitting certain plays. I think you observed tonight that it’s coming along really nicely. We’ve got some big guns, we’ve got some great setters, and people that can control the ball, and that’s one of our strengths so we’re going to play to that as much as we can.”

Meg Casault and Karly Janssen led the Pandas offence, with 14 and 8 kills respectively. Alberta’s defensive effort was led by Shauntelle Hogg, who had five total blocks, and Karly Janssen, who had four.

The Pandas came out swinging in the first set, and won the frame with strong play at the net and serving; they tallied five service aces in the set. For the match the Pandas finished with eight aces, four by Casault and three by Hogg.

“I’m just really happy with how the team responded tonight,” said coach Manuel, of his team’s three straight set wins after dropping the first. “Alberta came out on fire in the first set, and really had us off balance. Not that that’s unexpected, they’re such a well coached team, they had a great game plan coming in, and they executed really well and they bumped us in that first set.”

Asked if he’s going to focus on anything from tonight’s game in preparing for tomorrow’s, the Heat head coach added, “I haven’t really thought too much about tomorrow yet, I’m just really impressed and proud of how the team responded, to come back after getting beat so bad in that first set and turn that match around, and play the way they did for the rest of the match, so it’s all positive.”

Rallying from an 0-1 set score, the Heat put together a string of nine straight points in the middle of the second set to take a 10 point lead. They took the second set by the same score as the Pandas had taken the first, led by the offensive production from Festival, who notched five kills in the set.

The third set saw the Heat and the Pandas stay within a point or two of each other for the better part of the set, with neither team stringing together more than three points in a row. Offence in the set was led by Michelle Jakszuk, with five kills for the Heat, and Meg Casault, who had four kills and two service aces.

The final set saw both teams swinging for the fences. The Pandas totalled 13 kills in the fourth, and the Heat had 14. Of those 14 for UBC Okanagan, six came from Brianna Beamish.

Through the three straight set wins to seal the match, the Heat didn’t let the Pandas break set point once. The third and fourth sets were close, but once they had a chance to put it away, the Heat didn’t let up.

While the Heat continued to swing away throughout the match, the Pandas adapted to the strong play at the net, seeming to switch up their game plan and making effective use of tips and rolls to throw the Heat out of rhythm at times. Their defence helped keep the match tight as well, with a final tally of eight blocks and 65 digs for the Pandas.

With the win over the Pandas, the Heat remain in first place in Canada West with a record of 14-1, the Pandas slip to 13-2. These two national contenders face off against each other again tomorrow, Saturday January 16th, first serve at 5 p.m. (PST).

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