Huskies down defending national champion Thunderbirds

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The University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s volleyball team responded with a convincing 3-1 (25-18, 25-21, 26-28, 25-17) victory over the UBC Thunderbirds to pick up the series split on Ron & Jane Graham Centre Court at the PAC on Saturday, Oct. 26.

Saskatchewan is off to a strong start to the season, after the club won both contests on the road in Calgary last weekend and responded after falling on Friday night to UBC, to move to 3-1 on the season.

Meanwhile, the Thunderbirds fall to 3-1, after suffering their first loss of the season. Entering the match, UBC had just lost two sets all season and were ranked third in the nation, but the Huskies were able to upstage the visitors in three frames on Saturday afternoon.

Efficiency was the story of the match, with the Huskies holding the advantage from a hitting percentage perspective, with a .201 per cent clip, in comparison to the visitors .096 clip.

Fifth-year middle Brooke Listwin was instrumental in the Huskies victory, as the Saskatoon native was a force in the middle of the floor, recording seven kills and finishing with a sensational .636 hitting percentage. Fellow middle Mandi Fraser, who was a member of the 208-19 Canada West All-Rookie Team, played a significant role in the victory, with the second-year player tallying 12 kills and eight total blocks. Fourth-year libero Shae Beaulieu had a game-high 19 digs for Saskatchewan.

For UBC, Courtney Hillier and Gabrielle Attieh led the way for the visitors, recording 14 and 13 kills, respectively. Hillier led her side with four service aces, which was a game-high, while Attieh also chipped in a team-high six blocks for the Thunderbirds. Kayla Oxland tallied a game-high 42 assists for the roadside.

Saskatchewan came out hungry looking to avenge their Friday night loss and took care of business in the first frame. The visitors were inefficient hitting the ball in the opening set, recording just a .026 hitting percentage. With the score 17-15 in favour of the Huskies, back-to-back attacking errors from the visitors kickstarted a 9-3 run to close the frame, with Emily Koshinsky sealing the deal with a service ace.

With an 8-7 lead in the second frame, Saskatchewan took control on the backs of a 9-3 run to give the club a 17-10 lead. But after UBC trimmed the deficit down to 23-19 on a nice stretch of their own, the home side was able to close out the set with a Fraser kill to finish 25-21.

However, defending national champions do not go down without a fight, which was the case in this one. In a marathon back-and-forth third frame, the Thunderbirds came out to play and refused to lose in three sets. UBC held a .114 hitting percentage in the frame, edging out the Huskies, and escaped with a narrow 28-26 win in the set, to keep their hopes of a series sweep alive.

But unfortunately for the visitors, their early deficit was too much to overcome, as Saskatchewan grabbed the match by the horns in the late going and rode away with the victory, as back-to-back kills from Taylor Annala and Olivia Mattern gave the Huskies a 20-15 advantage. From there, the home side was able to close it out with a Thunderbirds service error sealing the

Saskatchewan will continue their four-game homestand next weekend when they welcome the Brandon Bobcats to town. Meanwhile, the Thunderbirds will return home to the west coast to take on the visiting Mount Royal Cougars in Vancouver.

All of that action can be watched live on Canada West TV presented by Co-op.