heavyweights UBC take down rival Spartans to reach finals for first time in three years

Danielle Brisebois picked up a game-high 18.5 points, and the UBC Thunderbirds clinched a berth in a national final for the first time since 2014 on Saturday night by defeating provincial rival Trinity Western 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-23) at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. 

Brisebois picked up 16 kills and 2.5 blocks for the Thunderbirds, who will will be vying for their 11th national title in program history and seventh in the past nine years. Juliana Kaufmanis was stellar in the back-court, picking up 12 digs to go along with five kills, while Maggie Li chipped in eight kills for UBC, who persevered in a hotly-contested match that was full of big hits, blocks, and serves on both sides of the net.
“That’s high level volleyball”, said UBC coach Doug Reimer of the semifinal match-up. “We’ve had great battles with that team over the past decade. Maybe not obvious to some people is how hard the serve and pass was because they knew they had to try and get (our) team out of system. Both setters did a great job as well. Hitters hit some great angles on both teams. It was enjoyable to coach, but the intensity there, if you just looked at a score sheet at home and thought it was an easy game, it was not a three-set game. Not at all.”
“Every one of our players played really well and I think we needed all six on the court to do a good job to win today. I thought that we took advantage of some situations and stayed assertive whether it was from the service line or swinging on second balls. And I thought we at least matched (Trinity Western’s) defensive intensity. Kaaufmanis did a tremendous job in the back row, and she wasn’t alone.”
“Both sides were fighting really hard and it was really good volleyball,” said UBC player of the game Alessandra Gentile, who picked up 27 set assists and eight digs in the win. “We were just super excited, energy was good, everyone was smiling. Someone made a mistake, then it was all good we will just get the next one.”
Sophie Carpentier picked up 12 kills and seven digs, and was named Trinity Western’s player of the game. Elly Wendel added 11 kills and seven digs for the Spartans, who will move to the bronze medal game on Sunday afternoon.
After going down by four early in the opening set, the Thunderbirds stormed back on Gentile’s serve, picking up four-straight points that included an ace by the Port Moody, B.C. native. Gentile’s floater handcuffed the Spartans once again coming out of the technical, but Trinity Western responded with an ace from Brie O’Reilly to even the match at 17-17.
Ashtyn McKenzie’s serve took a Spartan clip off the net and found the open court to give the Spartans a brief advantage, but serve specialist Laura Worsley (Vancouver) was brought in and picked up an ace to help the Thunderbirds move back in front by one.
The teams traded points heading into the latter stages of the set, before Li ( (North Saanich, B.C.) kick-started a three-point run with a middle attack that found the court. On the Thunderbirds’ second set-point, Katelyn Devaney’s serve went just long, allowing UBC to take a very tight opening set.
McKenzie began the set with a kill and ensuing ace before an impressive dig from the Vernon, B.C. native jumpstarted another point, allowing the Spartans to grab the first four points of the second. Two-straight aces from Carpentier sandwiched a UBC tonight to push the lead up to six, prompting a timeout from Reimer.
The Thunderbirds chipped away at the Spartan lead, and would take five of six points to pull within one. Brisebois heated up from there, scoring three of the next four on her own to even the game at 14-14.
The national team member gave UBC its first lead with another well-placed attack to take UBC into the technical up 16-15. Ciara Hanly (Calgary, Alta.) served up an ace coming out of the break, but two errors from the Thunderbirds evened that game once again.
The teams twice traded the lead, but three straight points that ended with another Brisebois kill gave the Thunderbirds another set point. After a quiet first set, the Bolton, Ont. native and First-Team all-Canadian polished off a superb second stanza with a set-winning block to give the Thunderbirds a 2-0 match lead.
No more than two points separated the Canada West rivals through the first part of the third, as the teams battled to a 12—12 score. UBC then used two consecutive Spartan errors, and added a pair of their own on an ace from Li and kill by Brisebois to take a four-point lead at the technical break.
The Thunderbirds held that advantage through to the final stages of the third set, where a kill from Brisebois gave UBC three match points. After the Spartans saved the first two, Brisebois combined with Hanly to deny Trinity Western’s final attack, clinching the Thunderbirds place in Sunday’s gold-medal final.
UBC will take on either Alberta or Montreal at 4:00 p.m. (EST) on Sunday.