KELOWNA, B.C. – The UBC Okanagan Heat women's volleyball team got their 2017/18 Canada West regular season underway on Friday evening against the visiting UBC Thunderbirds, last season's USORTS National Champions, in the UBC Okanagan gymnasium. The rivalry match opened the season with some intensity for the institution's two campuses, as both teams came out swinging in a match that eventually went to the Thunderbirds, 3-1, after an intense fourth set.
The Heat played their best volleyball to bookend the match, starting out strong to take the first set, and forcing the Thunderbirds to go into extra points to clinch in the fourth. With each side going well over 100 attacks and putting away a combined 108 kills, there was no shortage of excitement in the season opener.
The Heat took the first set by a score of 25-18. Kills were 12-11 in favour of UBC, but UBCO had just two errors to the T-Birds' ten. The Heat hit .391 and the Thunderbirds hit just .059 in the opening frame. UBC Okanagan jumped ahead 3-0 to start it, and never trailed from then on.
The Thunderbirds took the second set, 25-18. They jumped out quickly in the second set, pulling ahead 5-0 and forcing Heat head coach Steve Manuel to call a time out. The Heat stormed back to within one late in the set, at 18-17, but the 'Birds closed it out with four straight points.
Third set went to the Thunderbirds, again at 25-18. The Heat were ahead in the early stages, but UBC pulled ahead at 10-9 and then scored six straight to take a 16-10 lead. Gabrielle Attieh earned a kill to earn her side the final point and go ahead 2-1.
The fourth set was the closest of the match, with the Thunderbirds eventually sealing the match with a 26-24 win. Siobhan Fitzpatrick had one of the biggest kills of the match early on for the Heat's fourth point, but the home side wouldn't lead in the frame until they pulled ahead 19-18 amidst a five-point run. Ann Richards had an enormous kill that may have outdone Fitzpatrick's, to go up 22-21, but the visitors were able to hold off the comeback and closed it out.
Veteran hitter Siobhan Fitzpatrick and recent transfer Ann Richards were leading the offensive charge for UBC Okangan on Friday night, combining for 27 kills and 28 total points. Sara McCreary was efficient in setting them and the other Heat hitters up throughout, amassing 44 assists on the night.
Kiera Van Ryk was the most dominant player on the court in the first match of the year, burying 19 kills on an a .424 hitting percentage. She and Gabrielle Attieh combined for a total of 27 points for the Thunderbirds, as Attieh finished with 12 kills on .550 hitting. Setting them up on the attack was Alessandra Gentile, who had 39 assists and added seven digs and a service ace for good measure.
First-Time Heat Performances
Of the four offseason additions, Ann Richards and Sadie Taylor-Parks saw floor time on Friday night. Richards was a force for the Heat, playing in all four sets and contributing throughout. Taylor-Parks was on the floor through the final seven points of the third set.
The Heat (0-1) and Thunderbirds (1-0) will meet again tomorrow, Saturday, October 21st, at 5 p.m. in the UBC Okanagan gymnasium.
~ Grayson B. Leahy, Heat Sports Information