For the men’s volleyball team, this weekend’s games against the Calgary Dinos are the final regular season road trials — and they hold some serious playoff implications.
After sweeping the Winnipeg Wesmen last weekend, the Thunderbirds are one step away from a playoff spot.
The team is making a huge comeback from their 2-9 record before the winter break. Since the new year, the Thunderbirds have won 7 out of 8 games, putting them at a 9-11 record. Just six weeks ago, the Thunderbirds were still struggling at the bottom of the league. Now, the ’Birds are ranked eighth in Canada West.
If they maintain their ranking by winning at least one match against the seventh-ranked Dinos this weekend, they’ll be playoff-bound. Why just a one win this weekend? The Wesmen sit just behind UBC in the standings with a 7-13 record. If they were to win and UBC lost both of their, that would set them both on a 9-13 record — which would then go to a tiebreaker. If UBC wants to coast safely into playoffs, they will need at least one win.
In the past two years, UBC and Calgary have faced each other fives time, and the Thunderbirds managed to win four of those match ups. But that does not include their most recent meeting — the Trinity Western University McDonald’s Classic on December 28, in which UBC lost to Calgary in four sets. With a fresh new crew and a fresh new strategy, the Dinos are starting to rewrite the story between the two rivals.
Despite the do-or-die weekend pressure hanging over the Thunderbirds, this weekend is also going to be memorable one for less stressful reasons, as it marks the last regular season game for their graduating seniors: captain and fifth-year middle Joel Regehr and fifth-year outside hitter Zeid Hamadeh.
As one of the key players in the 2017/18 national championship-winning team, Regehr has always been consistent on the court, providing crucial assistance from the middle of the court. Over the season, he had contributed 102 points, including 62 kills, 19 aces and 38 blocks.
Compared to Regehr, Hamadeh’s name is less familiar due to his short experience with the team. The Ottawa product is a transfer from Western University; he only started to play with the Thunderbirds in September. Although he didn’t get as much spotlight as Regehr on the court, Hamadeh is one of the academic highlights amongst the team. He is the only graduate student on the roster, currently pursuing a masters of genome science and technology.
As we say goodbye to two veterans presences, it’s nice to see the continued strength of younger hotshots in the lineup too. The two star rookies on the team, Micheal Dowhaniuk and Matt Neaves, continue to perform for the blue and gold. Neaves led UBC in kills with 20 on Friday, while Dowhianiuk notched 44 points individually throughout the weekend as he hit double-digit kills on both game nights — enough to make him the Canada West third star of the week.
It seems like a new offensive line has formed and clicked for UBC too — good timing with post-season, hopefully, on the horizon. It comprises Coltyn Liu, Dowhaniuk, Neaves and Danny Aspenlieder. With improved consistency on the court and chemistry finally setting in between the players, will the Thunderbirds break through the Dinos this weekend and grab their golden playoff ticket?
Let’s cross our fingers.