A straight-sets victory on Saturday night closed out the regular season for UBC Okanagan, with three graduating players in top form on Seniors Night.

KELOWNA, BC – The UBC Okanagan Heat women’s volleyball team played their final match of the Canada West regular season on Saturday night in Kelowna, earning a three-set victory against the MacEwan Griffins. Set scores were 25-11, 25-23, 25-23.

With the win the Heat finish the Canada West season with a record of 15-9, securing the fifth seed, and will play their next matches of the postseason on March 3-5 when they travel to take on the 18-6 University of Calgary Dinos. the fourth seed, in a best-of-three Canada West quarter-finals.

Game one is scheduled for Friday night at 6 p.m., game two will be on Saturday at 6 p.m. and game three, if neccessary, is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. All times are Calgary local time (MST).

It was UBCO’s annual Senior Night, as graduating student-athletes Emily Oxland, Kaitlynn Given, and Megan Festival were honoured after the match.

UBC Okanagan finished with 49 kills and a .293 hitting percentage, and held MacEwan to 30 kills and a hitting percentage of .137. The Heat also had the advantage in assists (47-28), service aces (7-3), digs (61-47) and total blocks (4-3).

Kaitlynn Given ended her Heat regular season career with a match-high 13 kills on .312 hitting, and added nine digs. Megan Festival, Aidan Lea, and Siobhan Fitpatrick all contributed for Heat with nine kills apiece, and Festival also led the match with three service aces. Emily Oxland had a match-high 36 assists, and a match-high 16 digs.

Cassidy Kinsella once again led the Griffins, with a team-high 11 kills. Claire McLoughlin led MacEwan in assists, with 19, and Kate Rozendaal had a team-high nine digs.

The Heat came out swinging in the opening set, winning it in fashion by a score of 25-11. They had 15 kills on a .345 hitting percentage and held the Griffins to (6) on .065 hitting. The home side jumped out to a 3-0 lead to start, and never relinquished it. Not once were MacEwan able to string together more than two consecutive points, and at the technical time-out UBCO had a 16-7 lead. Two of the final three Heat points were provided by kills from Aidan Lea, before the Griffins’ fourth attacking error ended the frame.

The second set was far closer than the first, and at the technical time-out the Heat were up just a point at 16-15. As in the first set the Heat had the statistical advantage in the second, putting away 18 kills on .283 hitting to the Griffins’ 12 on a hitting percentage of .146. The Okanagan side started out strong, scoring eight of nine points to jump ahead 9-3 before the Griffins went on a four-point run to make it 9-7. The first MacEwan lead of the match came when they scored three straight to pull ahead 14-13, but attack errors gave the Heat back the lead at the break. The Griffins were able to stave off set points twice to pull within one at 24-23, but Kaitlynn Given buried an impressive kill to give the Heat the set win and the 2-0 lead in the match.

MacEwan had their strongest start in the third set, jumping out to a 7-3 lead, bolstered by three kills from star hitter Cassidy Kinsella. Kills from Megan Festival and Aidan Lea paired with a errors by the Griffins brought the Heat even at 9-9. UBCO took their first lead of the set at 12-11 after another Festival kill and a service ace by Erin Drew.

At the technical time-out the home side held a 16-14 lead. A four-point run consisting of four straight kills by Kaitlynn Given then put the Heat up 21-17, quickly followed by a huge block by Given and Drew to make it 22-19. Drew then scored a service ace, before UBCO earned match point at 24-22 on a Festival kill and Lea killed the final point to end the Heat’s regular season with a 3-0 victory.

The MacEwan Griffins finish their season with a record of 8-16, 10th in the Canada West standings, and will miss the playoffs.


Post-Match Interviews with Graduating Players:

Megan Festival:

Megan Festival:
Megan Festival:

Q: What is your favourite memory on the court?

A: My favourite memory on the court is last year, our middle who just graduated, Katie Wuttunee, had a really nice back set that she’d been working on all year, she back set it to me, it was against U of A in the Final Four, and she back set it to me and I had a pack against one of my best friends on the other team. I’ll remember that for a while.

Q: What is a favourite memory off of the court?

A: Probably tonight when the three graduating seniors, we just kind of had our arms around each other and instead of crying we just laughed and made jokes about the season, kind of teased our teammates and coach. It was a nice way to end it instead of crying.

Q: Does it help put off any feelings of finality knowing that you’re going on to the playoffs?

A: Yeah, definitely. Last time I get to play in front of a home crowd and our own fans, but our season’s not done. I definitely think our team has a lot left in store, so I’m still excited.

Q: Your teams have made the playoffs five straight times. Does that make the whole experience that much more special to know that as a group you had that immediate impact?

A: Every year has been such a fight to make the Final Four and those playoffs, so every year I’m still really grateful to make it this far. I’m so proud to be part of a successful program, it means a lot to contribute to it and say I had a part in really growing the program.

Q: How much do you think the program has changed since you became a part of it?

A: I think it’s changed a lot, especially in the confidence, and Steve’s ability to recruit. We now have a reputation as a school that can compete with big schools such as UBC and U of A. All those big schools that have such a history, we’re now counted as one of them.

Q: After having so much success, do you think it will be difficult to move from the regimented student-athlete lifestyle to what other people call ‘real life?’

A: Yeah, I’m a little concerned as to how I’m gonna deal with that. It’ll be interesting, but hopefully I’ll stay in athletics and maybe pick up a new sport or find something else to really fill my time. I’m not sure how I’m gonna do with that, but we’ll see. It’ll be nice, it’ll be new, so I’ll figure out something to fill my time with.

Q: What’s next for you after graduation?

A: I have a job lined up with a business in Calgary. I’m taking finance in school right now, so I’ll get to do some of that and hopefully continue on with this company and start making money instead of spending it.

Emily Oxland:

Emily Oxland
Emily Oxland

Q: What is your favourite memory on the court?

A: I think winning the bronze medal last year at nationals. Playing with some of my best friends from last year that graduated, it was just really fun and a big honour.

Q: What is a favourite memory off of the court?

A: I think just making so many friends and hanging out with them all the time, and that family bond that we have as a team.

Q: Did that change at all after graduating six players at the end of last season?

A: It changed a little bit, but I know that we fifth years really wanted the first years to feel welcome, so we tried really hard to make that family feel again. It was a little bit challenging, but by the end right now we feel really good about each other.

Q: Is it a point of pride for you as a team to have been this successful again after graduating so many players?

A: Yeah, of course. I think we knew it was going to be a challenge this year just getting everyone going, and a bunch of new people being starters. There were some challenges, but it feels really good to be making playoffs and having a good team again.

Q: You’re going to the playoffs for the fifth time in a row, does that help put off the finality of a Seniors Night like this for you three?

A: Yeah. I didn’t really feel like it was Seniors Night, just because we’re going into playoffs so it didn’t really hit me. I’m excited to see where we’ll go in the next few weeks.

Q: After all the success you’ve had here, do you think it will be difficult to adjust from the regimented style of playing and going to school that you’ve had?

A: Yeah, it’ll be very different. I was talking to Megan the other day about it, and we’re just going to miss the competing, putting yourself out there trying to win games. We’re going to miss that.

Q: What’s next for you after graduation?

A: I have no idea. Right now I’m taking the next year off, I’m going to just work. Then I’m going to apply for grad school in public health and nursing. That’s the plan right now. It might change.

Kaitlynn Given:

Kaitlynn Given
Kaitlynn Given

Q: What is your favourite memory on the court?

A: My favourite memory on the court has to be when we were at home and we got to host Final Four. Last play to win us a spot in the national championships which we had been fighting for for three years. That was definitely it for me. We took it away from UBC. That was obviously the best feeling ever, it solidified our changes, I’ll remember that one the most.

Q: What is a favourite memory off of the court?

A: That has got to be with some of the girls I’ve gotten to play with for the past five years. I don’t know if I can pick exactly one out, but spending summers here with a couple different girls on the team and getting to maintain those friendships that we’ve built throughout the years hopefully for the rest of our lives.

Q: How do you think the program has changed since you joined it?

A: Since I’ve joined we’ve made huge strides in the CIS league. When I joined it was the second year that UBCO had been in CIS, so we’ve taken our team from being a team that had more losses than wins to definitely a team with more wins than losses, and become one of those respected names in the league and that’s huge for me and the team.

Q: Playing your final match in front of a home crowd has to be special, but did playing as well as you three did make it even better for you?

A: Absolutely. I mean last night was kind of a rough go for us, it wasn’t really the volleyball that we’re used to playing so it was huge for us to turn it around and have that really happy and positive mentality that we did tonight that helped us get a win.

Q: Does knowing that you’re going to the playoffs again help to put off the finality of Seniors Night for you?

A: Yeah, and for me personally it just took a lot of pressure off of tonight, knowing that it’s not my last game. I will keep continuing to play with this team. It definitely took away some of the pressures of tonight so I could really just enjoy it.

Q: After all the success that you’ve had here, do you think it’s going to be difficult to move away from the regimented lifestyle of a high-level athlete?

A: It definitely will. Come September it’s going to be weird not to be registering for courses or wondering where we’re going for preseason for sure, but after spending five years here I’m so happy for everything that I’ve gotten out of volleyball and very thankful for getting to spend five years here that I know I’m just going to take that and keep going with it for the rest of my life hopefully.

Q: What’s next for you after graduation?

A: I’m hoping to stay in Kelowna and work for a company that I’ve had the opportunity to work for for the past two summers. They’re mainly an engineering firm, but they do some urban planning which is really where I’d like to go with my career. So we’ll see how things work out with them, I’m hoping that I’ll stick on for another year and then hopefully apply for masters programs come September of 2018.