KELOWNA, BC - With four straight appearances in the Canada West Final Four the UBC Okanagan women's volleyball team for the last few seasons have been the favourites in almost every match played.
That will change for the first weekend of the 2017/18 Canada West season though because the Heat will open up at home with arguably their fiercest rival, sister school, and defending Canada West and U SPORTS national champions.
The Heat open up at home versus the UBC Thunderbirds.
The opening matchup will be a must-see event at the UBC Okanagan Gymnasium and the season will start on the October 20-21 weekend with the two-day clash getting underway on Friday at 6 p.m.
The schedule will not get easier for UBCO in week two. The second week matchup has the Heat on the road playing in Langley for another battle against a favorite for a national title, and national bronze medalists, in the Trinity Western Spartans.
The Spartans always defend their home court well and the second week bout takes place on October 27-28.
The first two weeks of November have Heat head coach Steve Manuel's team take on fellow relative newcomers to Canada West when they host the Mount Royal Cougars November 3-4 and then on the road to Edmonton to play MacEwan on November 10-11.
Continuing with the home then away trend the Heat will return home and play the Regina Cougars before hitting the road to Calgary to close out the 2017 portion of the schedule. The Heat return the site of where they made an incredible comeback in last year's post season to once again play the Dinos.
That exciting rematch will happen November 30 and December 1.
The opening series of the second half will be difficult as the opening weekend for UBCO. The Heat host the national silver medalist in the Alberta Pandas on January 5-6.
After a bye-week the Heat will hit the road for two straight weekends with back-to-back grueling prairie trips, first going to Brandon on January 19-20 and then to Saskatoon to play the Huskies to close out January, matches on the 26-27 of the first month.
The final month of the regular season in Manuel's 17th season at the helm will feature three straight road matches and then three straight matches on the road to close out the schedule.
At home versus Winnipeg (Feb. 2-3) before hosting the single match in the always intense interior matchup versus Thompson Rivers on Thursday, Feb. 8th.
The second part of the matchup with TRU is in Kamloops on Saturday, Feb. 10th and then the regular season ends in Winnipeg on February 16-17 against the Manitoba Bisons.
This season marks a significant change to the CW volleyball scene, as the number of playoff teams will rise from seven to eight, with best-of-three quarter-finals and semifinals then leading to a single-game championship. The conference eliminated the CW Final Four tournament in favour of a one-game championship hosted by the highest remaining seed through a vote of the membership earlier this year.
Additionally, if a third CW berth to nationals must be determined, the higher team to have lost in the semis will host the bronze medal game.
The changes replace the existing four-team championship tournaments, which had been in place since 2002-03.
The season all leads to the U SPORTS national tournaments, which are slated for March 15-18. Université Laval in Quebec City, Que. Hosts the women's tourney.
Fans will have access to every conference game on the road to nationals this season on Canada West TV – the conference's official streaming platform – as every men's and women's conference regular season and playoff game will be streamed in 2017-18.