For many students, it’s tough to hit one's stride right out the gate after a long winter break. For the UBC men’s volleyball team, it was no different.
In their first game back since the holiday break on Friday, January 5, the T-Birds faced an unexpectedly wearying five-game set against the visiting Manitoba Bisons, dropping the match 3-2. It was only the team’s second loss of the season.
“I don't think last night we played anywhere near our best volleyball, especially for the first two sets. It took us a while to kind of get in to it,” said UBC head coach Kerry MacDonald of Friday night's game.
Although losing the first game of the new year, the Thunderbirds refused to let the Bisons get the best of them again on Saturday. With a lift in momentum and better execution, the ’Birds quickly took over the evening match up, finishing the game with a decisive 3-0 win.
“I think we [shook] the rust off last night and we bounced back hard, [the] guys were playing good,” UBC rookie Fynn McCarthy said of the team's momentum shift from Friday to Saturday.
The Thunderbirds tried to establish their advantage right from the beginning of the first frame on Friday. Fourth-year player Joel Regehr opened the set with a firm kill from the middle, followed by a solid service ace from setter Byron Keturakis. After a series of front-row attacks, UBC was ahead 5-0. A few errors from the ’Birds then gave the Bisons a chance to fight back, pushing the points to 9-7 in favour of UBC, though Manitoba couldn’t keep that momentum going late into the set. The Thunderbirds finished the frame ahead 25-18.
The second set was a bit more challenging for the ’Birds. After multiple attack errors and hard kills from Manitoba, the team found themselves in a seven point deficit through the middle of the frame. However, the T-Birds had a strong response with eight points in a row. They finished the frame ahead 25-21.
The third and final frame was an opportunity for UBC’s rookies to shine, as the team cruised to their match win. Second-year Jordan Deshane scored four kills in the set, alongside Keith West who picked up his tenth kill of the night. Rookie McCarthy was a stand out on the night with twelve kills and one ace as he filled in for injured veteran Matt Guidi.
“It’s definitely a milestone. It's good to come in first year and get a lot of playing time and just help the guys out... I'm definitely satisfied with my performance,” said McCarthy.
Together, the Thunderbirds closed the game with a two-point in the third lead at 25-23.
Speaking to McCarthy’s performance, head coach MacDonald was impressed with the first year's play. “He came in and replaced [Matt] Guidi. I thought he did a great job, especially tonight was excellent. Really happy to see him having success.”
Going forward into the second half of the season, MacDonald is setting a high standard for the team. “We have really high expectations.... We want to be at nationals and we want to be contending for a championship. That’s what we’re trying to do, and we're just trying to get better every week in order to make that happen."
The team heads on the road next week to face the Winnipeg Wesman at Duckworth Centre. Their first game is scheduled for Friday evening.