Scoops and Digs: Women's volleyball libero Sam Patko is back on board the T-Bird train

After deciding to hang up her shoes last season to focus on academics, fifth-year libero Sam Patko returned to the faltering Thunderbirds in the fourth week of the 2018/19 season.

Patko led the Thunderbirds in digs the previous three seasons and has been a defensive presence the team missed desperately in their opening games of this year.

UBC head coach Doug Reimer admits that a player rejoining the team part way into the season is unusual, but the move was, "not just for her, not just for team performance but also within the group as a whole we felt that this was a positive for our team.”

The T-Birds dropped their three opening games and were in need of a confidence boost. Patko — who also missed playing — was definitely missed by the team who had brought in not one, but two liberos to supplement her absence with first years Jess Goodridge and Kacey Jost; fourth year Laura Worsley rounded out the original trio for this season.

Since her return, Patko has “hit the ground running,” according to Reimer. She has led the team in digs in all four of her appearances this year and leads the team in average digs per set with 3.56. It seems the time off has only lit a fire under the fifth year on the hardwood.

['auto'] File Elizabeth Wang

Right now, UBC sit at a .500 record. But, since Patko's return, the 'Birds have only dropped one of their last four.

Heading into the last two matches before their winter break, the Thunderbirds will face a tough test in the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. For Reimer, though the Huskies record of 2-6 may not reflect a winning team, they are still a tough opponent and perhaps a good test for the returning Patko.

“[Saskatchewan's] record may not look that good, but they have played well against the two top teams in the conference... . We’re going to have to work hard and be more consistent than we have been up to this point,” Reimer said.

A two-win weekend would be a huge boost heading into the break for a surging 'Birds squad.

Games this weekend are set for 12:30 p.m. on Friday, November 23 (worth missing a class, I'd say) and 5 p.m. on Saturday, November 24. The Saturday match will also be UBC volleyball's Pride Night, where teams and fans alike will get the opportunity to celebrate LGBTQ+ pride and donate to worthy LGBTQ+ causes.

Both games will be held at War Memorial Gym, and will preface the men's volleyball games to be held at 7 p.m. on Friday and 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Break out your rainbow gear and get loud — let's show some pride this Saturday, UBC.

Scoops and Digs is the ongoing volleyball column, co-authored by Photo Editor Elizabeth Wang and sports writer Scott Young. Wang will share insights into the men’s volleyball team, while Young discusses the women’s volleyball program on a rotating basis throughout both teams’ seasons.