KELOWNA, BC –  The UBC Okanagan Heat women’s volleyball team fell to the visiting Thompson Rivers WolfPack on Saturday night by a score of 3-1. With the weekend split the Heat and the WolfPack will go into their final weekend of the Canada West regular season tied in the standings with matching records of 13-9.

Set scores on Saturday night were 25-17, 25-14, 21-25, and 25-21.

The third set saw the Heat play most like themselves, as they took the win 25-21. Kills were 16-15 and hitting percentages were .250 – .200, with the home side having the advantage in both. UBC Okanagan scored six straight early in the set to jump out to a lead at 8-4, and after the ‘Pack scored four straight to tie it up at 8-8 the Heat went on another run to go ahead 12-8. At the technical time-out it was 16-14 for UBCO, and a kill from Festival immediately after the break put them up 17-14. From then on neither team scored more than two consecutive points, and the Heat were able to seal the win with the final two points coming courtesy of an Aidan Lea kill and a WolfPack attacking error.

At the technical time-out in the fourth set the Heat were up 16-13, but a five-point run by the WolfPack put the visitors ahead 18-6 and forced a UBCO time-out. A huge block from Fitzpatrick and Lea brought the Heat back within one at 18-17, but a service error and another big block by the ‘Pack put TRU back up by three at 20-17. A pair of kills from Iuliia Pakhomenko and another from Morgan Kolasa gave the WolfPack set point, and a Heat attack error provided the final point as TRU took the set and 25-21 and the match 3-1.

Statistically the teams were nearly even on Saturday night, though Thompson Rivers finished the match ahead in kills (46-41), hitting percentage (.197 – .095), assists (42-40), digs (66-62), total blocks (10-6), and service aces (9-6).

Individually, TRU’s Iuliia Pakhomenko proved why she is considered one of the best players in the country by finishing with a match-high 24 kills. Behind her for the ‘Pack was Rachel Windhorst, with eight. Abby Spratt had a match-high 34 assists, and Morgan Kolasa and Spratt finished tied for a match-high in service aces with three apiece.

For the Heat it was Siobhan Fitzpatrick leading the attack finishing with 14 kills. Aidan Lea was next behind her, with 10 kills. Fitpatrick and Megan Festival led UBCO with two service aces each, and Lea had a team-high three blocks.

The first set went to the visiting WolfPack, 25-17. Hitting was relatively even in the set, with each team having nine kills and the Heat finishing with just two more attacking errors, six to TRU’s four. Hitting percentages were .172 – .091 for the visitors, and that slight advantage in consistency was the difference. A pair of runs in the first half of the set put the WolfPack ahead, as they strung together six straight to go up 6-2, and then seven straight to go up 14-8 before going into the technical time-out with a 16-9 lead. The Heat strung together four late to make it 22-15, but it wouldn’t be enough before Abby Spratt buried a kill to finish the set.

Kills in the second were 9-5 for TRU, who hit .240 while holding the Heat to .-222. Once again Thompson Rivers took a 16-9 lead into the technical time-out, after stringing together more runs of three and four points while not allowing UBC Okanagan to score more than two consecutively. Again after the break the ‘Pack continued their consistent attack, stringing together four straight to go up 18-9 and force Heat head coach Steve Manuel to call another time-out. Erin Drew broke that run with a kill that caught the TRU receivers off balance, but more errors and excellent defensive play from the Wolfpack put them well ahead late. A kill from Mikayla Funk provided the final point, as TRU took it 25-14.

The UBC Okanagan Heat (13-9) will play their final matches of the Canada West regular season next weekend at home again, when they host the Grant MacEwan Griffins (8-14) on Friday, February 24 and Saturday, February 25. The Thompson Rivers WolfPack (13-9) will close out their season on those same days, when they travel to play the University of Saskatchewan Huskies (6-16).

NOTES: The game marked the end of this year’s women’s President’s Cup competition which was already won by the Heat prior to the game. After the match Steve Manuel, head coach of the Heat women’s volleyball team, presented the women’s Cup to Professor Deborah Buszard, UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Okanagan campus in Kelowna, BC.

~ Grayson Leahy, UBC Okanagan