After suffering two five set losses against the Brandon Bobcats last week, the UBC men’s volleyball team needed a win this weekend to raise their chances of clinching a playoff spot.
Unfortunately, the Trinity Western Spartans proved too big of a rival to squash as the Thunderbirds lost both their Friday and Saturday games, 3-1 and 3-0. The ‘Birds have been beaten by the Spartans the majority of the times they have faced each other; the Spartans have defeated the Thunderbirds eight of the nine times they’ve played since February 2012.
"Last weekend we were playing some good ball in Brandon, so to come home hoping for that advantage, and to give the crowd that performance, it’s rough,” said fourth-year outside hitter Ben Chow, who led the ‘Birds in the second game with nine kills.
“That’s definitely not UBC volleyball play everyone saw. We all know we’re better than that, it’s just a matter of doing the things that need to be taken care of.”
On Friday, even though the ‘Birds put up a fight and won the first set, they were overwhelmed with the final set scores at 26-28, 25-19, 29-27 and 25-19. The home team looked set to attack the Spartans point for point in the second set, until the visitors surged forward to a lead and won the set due to a service error by UBC setter Milan Nikic. An ace in the third gave the Spartans the lead again to make it 19-18, and a couple more plays extended the lead to 22-19. TWU then took the set after a controversial call. A strong service from Nicholas Del Bianco left the ‘Birds sprawling and struggling to recover at set point — the Spartans took the final set, and the game.
The T-Bird’s offence was led by third-year outside hitter Mac McNicol, who made 17 total kills, and middle Chris Howe with 10 kills, who also has the fifth most blocks per set in the season so far. Nikic made a total of 39 assists on Friday and 38 on Saturday, more total assists over the weekend (77) than Spartan leader Adam Schriemer, who had a total of 73.
Trinity Western’s Del Bianco and Ryan Schlater scored 16 and 15 kills in the game, proving as instrumental in defeating the ‘Birds as over a year ago in which they scored 13 and 12, respectively. A major problem the T-Birds had was stopping aces and services when it mattered. Both Del Bianco and Schlater made three aces each in the game.
"I think our service section needs to be a little bit crisper. There were a couple times where they’d hit a good serve sometimes and get an ace, but we can’t let them do that twice or three times in a row,” said McNicol.
The following day, the ‘Birds were defeated in three sets at 27-25, 25-20 and 25-17. While the Thunderbirds looked like they would hold off the Spartans, they again fell short in the third set as the Spartans went off on a six-point run, and faltered in the third and final set, when it mattered most.
For head coach Richard Schick, the two losses were more of a smear on their record that would be better erased and left alone.
"No lessons taken, we have to forget about it as soon as possible,” Schick said.
The next two series of games against the University of Calgary and the University of Regina will prove to be vital for the Thunderbirds’ regular season campaign. The Spartans are now tied for second with Brandon University and have already secured their playoff spot along with the University of Alberta Bears and the Brandon Bobcats. Now tied at eighth with the Calgary Dinos, the ‘Birds will have to pull themselves out of their four-game losing streak and play consistently for the next bit of the season.
“We’re going to regroup to focus for next weekend. We've got four big matches as we're fighting for playoffs so nothing else really matters except these next four games,” said Chow.
The Thunderbirds will face the University of Calgary Dinos in Calgary, Alberta at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.