CALGARY, AB – In a winner-take-all match in the quarter finals of the Canada West playoffs, the UBC Okanagan Heat prevailed over the hometown Calgary Dinos in four sets on Sunday afternoon.
With the win the Heat move on to the Canada West Final Four next weekend in Edmonton. The Heat will match up with the top-ranked University of Alberta Pandas on Friday night at 5 p.m. PST. This marks the fourth straight year that UBCO will be playing in the final four.
Rookie setter Sara McCreary played outstanding ball for the Heat, organizing a tremendously balanced offense as she finished with a career high 55 assists. This is the second-most assists in the Heat’s history, regular season or post season match, and most ever in a four-set match and a top-ten mark in Canada West post season history.
McCreay set four players to double-digits in kills with last night’s hero, Aidan Lea, Kaitlynn Given, and Michelle Jakszuk all swung for 16 kills while Calgary product Megan Festival finished with 13.
After finishing with 28.5 points in the five set Heat win on Saturday, Lea once again stuffed the stat sheet with 16 kills on .393 hitting and four blocks for 18.5 points. The 28.5 points is now the fourth highest single match conference total in post season play.
Given also hit over .300 (.316), 16 kills, and 18.5 points the fifth year added 11 digs and an ace on the night as well. Erin Drew finished with a team high six blocks.
The McCreary Jakszuk connection was firing to the tune of 16 kills against the Dinos. 16 is a career high in kills for the fourth year outside hitter who hit bombs most of the afternoon at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium.
Sophia Furlan led the way for the UBCO defence with a match-high 17 digs and Festival with contributes 15. Both players form Calgary made several spectacular digs in their hometown in the Heat victory.
After taking the first two sets moment seemed to have Calgary on their heels but the Dinos dug deep and pulled out an exhausting third set win to take the match another set.
The turning point in the fourth set came with the score 19-18 for the Dinos, as Sara McCreary won a battle at the net to tie the set up. Skye Thompson followed that up with a service ace to take the lead at 20-19 and force a Calgary timeout. The Dinos would come back however, and the fourth set would go extra points. Senior outside hitter Megan Festival came up big for the Heat, as she gave the Heat match point with a kill and followed it up with one final big swing to win the match for UBCO.
Kate Pexman continued her strong play for the Dinos as she finished with a team-high 14 kills and added 13 digs. Pexman had 44 kills in the three-match series. Kelowna native Kennedy Snape finished with 13 digs as well for the home team. Calgary freshman Hannah Tanasichuk finished with 10 kills and Jillian Lazic with a match high 10 blocks.
After UBCO got off to a quick start in the third set they led 5-2, but this lead would not last long as the Dinos would take the lead 6-5. At the technical timeout, the home squad were up 16-13. After a huge block by fourth year middle Erin Drew the Heat were down just one at 18-17. After three straight UBCO points a Sara McCreary service ace would give the Heat the lead 21-20 and put the pressure on Calgary. Once the score was tied up at 22 apiece, both teams could not put away the set until a Kate Pexman kill with the score 29-28 would earn the win for Calgary, 30-28. The Heat had match point on two different occasions in the set, first with the score at 25-24, then at 26-25. The third saw seven lead changes and was tied 14 different times in what turned out to be the longest set of the series.
The first set proved to be one of runs, as the Heat went on a 6-1 run early on to take the lead. The Dinos would go on a run of their own to take the lead back at 9-7, but the Heat would bounce back and led at the technical timeout, 16-12. A 4-0 spurt by the home squad tied the set up at 20-20, but the Heat would bounce back and close out the first set 25-22. Aidan Lea continued her hot play, and she had six kills in the first set alone.
The Heat trailed in the second set going into the technical timeout, 16-13, but would take the lead 20-19 on a Michelle Jakszuk kill set up by Sara McCreary. An Aidan Lea and Megan Festival block would give UBCO set point, and another Aidan Lea kill would win the second set 25-22 for the visitors.
The Heat had 21 more kills than the Dinos (65-44) and hit a better percentage (.191-.129). The Dinos had the slight advantage from the service line, as they had two more aces and four less service errors.
Returning to the Final Four for the fourth straight year the Heat will see familiar foes at the Canada West championship this Friday – Saturday (March 11-12). For the third straight year the four teams will be Alberta, Trinity Western, UBC, and UBC Okanagan, with Trinity Western winning the previous two times.
On Friday (Mar. 11) UBC Okanagan will open up as the 4-seed and play the 1-seed Alberta in the opening semi-final at 5:30 p.m. (PST) from the Saville Sports Centre in Edmonton, Alberta. Then UBC and TWU will platy the other semi-final with the medal matches taking place on Saturday.
In an interview follow the match with the Calgary Dinos broadcasters Heat fifth year Kaitlynn Given had this to say:
What was the difference to pull off the victory?
I think the difference tonight was just all around support on the court. We knew that we didn’t want to give up on anything and just had that mentality of going for everything so that definitely made the difference tonight.
The importance of passing and the middle attack?
[The]serve and serve-receive game is always a big part of our game plan and a big focus that we always have as a go-to. We set goals before every game [and the] serve and serve-receive are always there We have two of the best middles in the country [Erin Drew and Aidan Lea] and we want to get them going as much as we can so we put a lot of emphasis on the serve-receive game.
I wanna know how you guys adjusted after Siobahn [Fitzpatrick – first set of Saturday’s match Fitzpatrick rolled her ankle] went down…what was going through your minds?
We just wanted to go out there and do it for her…it’s never fun to see a teammate go down….someone who I’m really close with personally so obviously we want to take all of that disappointment at the moment and just turn it into something good for us. We want her to be feeling supported all the way around. That one was for her…for sure.
HEAT NOTES: Regular starters Emily Oxland (5th yr, setter) and Siobhan Fitzpatrick (3rd yr, outside hitter) were unavailable for the match due to injury…..
~ Oliver Rizun, UBC Okanagan. Notes from Zenan Sherbaniuk, Dinos Communications