It was not the ending that the UBC Thunderbirds men’s volleyball team had hoped for in their 2016/17 campaign, but it was a step back into the right direction.
The ’Birds ended their season with a fourth-place finish at the U Sports National Championships. This was their first trip to nationals in almost a decade, having been stopped in either the Canada West quarterfinals or Final Four repeatedly by either the Brandon University Bobcats or the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
The T-Birds finally overcame the Bobcats in the Canada West quarterfinals this year to make it to the Final Four. First they lost to the University of Manitoba Bisons, but then defeated the Golden Bears to book their ticket to the 2017 U Sports National Championships in Edmonton.
The competition started out well for the ’Birds, as they beat the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds 3-1 in their opening match. Setter Byron Keturakis led the game with four blocks and an incredible 52 assists. Outside hitter Irvan Brar led the team in kills with 26.
The next game was a hard-fought one, but it ultimately resulted in a 3-2 loss against the Golden Bears. Alberta came out with 25-23 and 25-15 wins in the first two sets before the ’Birds bounced back with two 25-20 wins in the third and fourth sets. Byron Keturakis’ 49 assists were not enough to stop the Golden Bears from taking the last set 15-11 and the game.
The Thunderbirds' last game of the tournament would decide who finished third and fourth in the final rankings. Their opponent, the McMaster University Marauders, swept the game 3-0 to claim U Sports bronze. Byron Keturakis recorded 31 assists, but the ’Birds lacked defensive effectiveness with only two blocks recorded.
While a fourth-place finish may be disappointing for the ’Birds, this has been their best season for quite some time. The team should be able to properly build up their young talent with their veterans and come back with vengeance next year.