After honouring Alex Swiatlowski and Grant Sonnenberg before the match, the Heat earned their ninth win of the season in impressive fashion.

KELOWNA, BC – The UBC Okanagan men’s volleyball team closed out their season with a four-set win over the visiting MacEwan University Griffins on Friday night. The Heat finished the season on a four-game winning streak and hold a final record of 9-15.

With their ninth win the Heat men set a program record for wins in a season since joining the Canada West back in 2011/2012. An impressive start for interim head coach Brad Hudson in his first season at the helm of the Heat.

The Heat recognized two players before the game: Alex Swiatlowski and Grant Sonnenberg, who both played their last game in a Heat uniform on Saturday night.

Although Lars Bornemann once again led the way for the Heat as he finished with a match-high nine kills it was second year libero Eli Risso who set a Canada West record. Risso closed out the season with nine digs in the final match, and finished the season with 295 to lead Canada West and set a new conference record.

First year outside hitter Kyle Hinchey also chipped in with eight kills for the home team. The Griffins were led by Jordan Peters who had eight kills, as well as Kai Hesthammer who finished with six.

The first set went back and forth as neither team could gain much separation going into the technical timeout with the score 16-14 for MacEwan. After a quick 3-0 run gave the visitors a 22-18 lead, the Heat could not get back into the first set and would lose 25-21. The Heat had the advantage in kills in the first set (15-12) but five more attack errors proved to be the difference. Jordan Peters finished the first set with six kills for the Griffins on a .400 hitting percentage.

The Heat got off to a quick start in the second set thanks to a 5-0 run and forced a MacEwan timeout with the score 8-3. Alex Swiatlowski had back-to-back aces for the home side during the run. After a 5-2 run by the Griffins cut the deficit to only two, Heat head coach Brad Hudson was forced to use a timeout with the score 14-12 for the Heat. That’s as close as the team from Edmonton would get, as the Heat closed out the set 25-21 with the final point coming on a Lars Bornemann kill.

After a back-and-forth start to the third set, the Heat took control of both the set and the match thanks to an 8-0 run that put them ahead at the technical timeout, 16-10. The run continued as four more points followed, extending the run to 12 points in a row. It would eventually come to an end, but not before the Heat took a commanding 20-11 lead in the set. The Heat would win the third by a score of 25-15 and take a one-set lead going into the fourth.

The Heat continued the momentum to start the fourth set and they led 8-4 early, forcing a timeout from the visitors. The Griffins could never get back into the set and they trailed 16-10 at the technical timeout. With the score 21-12 the crowd started chanting “we want Grant” as they wanted to see senior player Grant Sonnenberg get some final playing time before his career came to a close. The coach heard the crowd’s wishes, and the senior middle blocker made one final appearance after coming on to a standing ovation from the UBC Okanagan crowd. The Heat won the final set 25-18.

The Heat had the advantage in kills (30-24), assists (29-23), and digs (22-15). The visitors had the advantage in hitting percentage (.315 – .267) as well as seven fewer attack errors (14-7).

Post-Match Interviews with Graduating Players:

Alex Swiatlowski
Alex Swiatlowski

Alex Swiatlowski:

Q: What is your favourite memory on the court?

A: I know it’s a cliché but I’d probably have to say this last one, even being on the sideline those last couple points there. You see your team excel. We’ve gone through some tough times for sure the last couple years and it’s amazing to leave this program in a much better position than when I came in, so it was beautiful to just sit back and watch and have fun and play good volleyball.

Q: What is your favourite memory off the court?

A: I’d have to say in my first and second year, when we went down to Hermosa Beach, California and it was an amazing bonding moment with some of the best friends, and you keep those friends forever. Most of those guys aren’t on the team anymore but it was definitely an amazing part of my life.

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

A: Biggest thing for me is mentality. I will forever be grateful for Brad Hudson, our interim coach this year. That’s his main point, is raising great men. Men who have good morals and stuff like that. I think that’s the biggest difference this year.

Q: What does it mean for you guys to play your last game on home court and get a win like that?

A: That was awesome. I got hit in the head last Thursday, so I came back on Saturday and I wasn’t allowed to play because of concussion protocol and I was fearing not being able to play here in our last home game but it was amazing. Both to be able to play really good volleyball and in our home gym I think it’s just the biggest difference-maker. Tons of support from family and friends and the community. So it’s awesome to play for them and to show them some good ball.

Q: What’s next after graduation for you?

A: After graduation I’m looking to go play pro next year, probably in Europe somewhere. Not sure where yet but I’ll keep my eyes and ears open and hopefully find the right spot. And then after that I’ll be returning to Canada and hopefully be going into pharmacy.

Grant Sonnenberg:

Grant Sonnenberg
Grant Sonnenberg

Q: What is your favourite memory on the court?

A: You know, there was a moment a couple years ago, or it was probably last year. We were in Brandon and we were down by a bunch to a team we shouldn’t have been losing to, and we sorta start to come back and it’s a tight game and we need to win this next set, and its close in the end and there’s a ball that kinda gets dug on our side and goes tight to the net. Our setter, who’s not particularly good at hitting second balls traditionally, it’s very high in the air and he is sorta standing there for a second and looks, up starts to approach, throws his arms backwards and we’re all just thinking behind him “No,no,no,no,no” and all of a sudden he goes up hits it with sorta the low part of his hand, and it goes off a defender and out the side and we all just lose our minds. Seems like there’ hope, we caught a break, just a moment of elation.

Q: What is your favourite memory off the court?

A: Oh there’s so many to choose from. A lot of good people, a lot of good things. First time we get together as a team, introducing the new guys. There were a couple nights when we went on the trips to California and we’ve had the opportunity to just sorta hang out together and discuss and whole variety of topics.

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

A: The way it felt when I came in the first year I was here was that this was the time of change, time to transition. So there was kinda like an old guard of players in their last year of playing and they worked well with the current coach and they had been very successful in the college league. And it was a little bit different, their sorta style was a little bit different from the big recruiting class that I was a part of. So there was very much a dichotomy of old versus young in that case. Over time, I think the communication between all the players has grown stronger, we have become a more cohesive team, a stronger team technically, especially this year. This has been a real sign, when things haven’t been successful in terms of wins and losses, this was a solid turnaround and I think that the future is bright for the program now, and the people like myself who are leaving have really cared and have given everything in order to build something that lasted here. That was the goal.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: Well it’s not really the end because I’m here for my masters in mechanical engineering and I will hopefully defend my thesis next year so that’s another full year of school. I’m talking to the coaching staff a little bit, I’d really like to stick around and help out a little bit if I can and if they’d have me. I’m not ready to be done with it just yet I suppose. After that I don’t know, very difficult to tell. I’ve always kinda done things with the next step in mind and then figured it out as I go.

Q: What does it mean to play in front of the home crowd in your last match?

A: These guys? The people who come to these games are actually really invested in the program and it’s really sweet to see, especially on a night like this. It’s a really great reminder of the wonderful community, and the atmosphere at UBC Okanagan is fantastic.  There’s continuity, not necessarily the old button-down jacket kinda thing but just good people who really care about you as a person and want you to do well, and really enjoy the success of the program as a whole. So being able to show your contributions and receive the warmth and affection is a very gratifying experience and I’m very glad to spend my time here.