Men's volleyball puts out the Okanagan Heat, extend winning streak

UBC men's volleyball kept their pre-holiday break winning streak alive over the weekend, defeating the UBC Okanagan (UBCO) Heat in back-to-back matches on Friday and Saturday night.

On Friday, the ’Birds scraped past their Kelowna rivals, winning the match 3-2 overall. Though UBC took the first sets — 25-21 and 26-24 — the Heat made a comeback in the third and fourth set, winning 25-23 and 25-18 to force a tiebreaker.

In the end, it was the ’Birds that managed to seal the win, taking the final set 15-5.

UBC outside hitter Mat Guidi led the T-Birds in kills for the night, with 15 overall, while setter Byron Keturakis scored five aces for the home side.

The following evening, the Heat came out guns-blazing from the initial serve, taking it to the ’Birds in hopes of finding that elusive win from the previous night. Their efforts were rivaled by the home team, as UBC held strong in their end of the court.

Led by stellar performances from Irvan Brar, Joel Regehr and Mat Guidi once again — who notched 12 kills in the match-up — UBC managed to come out on top once again.

“I just felt we were inconsistent in our execution. We executed well in spurts, and then not as well at other times,” said UBC head coach Kerry MacDonald of Friday’s match. “We hadn’t prepared for the lineup that we saw last night — that was a line they haven’t run before.

“So we looked over some video and kind of revamped our game plan, and wanted to come out and execute that game plan tonight.”

Brar got UBC going with the first and second kill of the match, putting UBC up 2-0.

Even with the positive start, the ’Birds faced an uphill battle in the first set. Following the initial serves, UBC didn’t take the lead again until the final points of the set. Middle Jordan Deshane was the player to push the home side ahead, as he floated the volleyball into the front zone, faking out the UBCO players who were expecting a hard spike towards the end line.

The point would put the ’Birds ahead by one, at 23-22. They would maintain the marginal lead to secure the first set 25-23.

In the second, rookie Nick Mickelberry took to the court for the ’Birds in his first set of the season. His solid performance, alongside fellow first-years Danny Aspenlieder and libero Tyson Smith, played a pivotal role in UBC’s rhythm throughout the sets.

“They did really well,” said MacDonald about the rookies' performance. “That is one of our strengths — we definitely do have some depth. We got some younger guys in tonight just being up. We had some leads and some opportunities and put them in some good situations, and I thought they did a great job."

“It’s always nerve-wracking for the first-year guys getting in for their first time, but it was great that we got the opportunity to do that tonight.”

UBC would take the second set as well, although they faced several tough rallies to get there.  A fumble by the Heat’s front line would be the deciding factor, as the ball trickled into their side of the court instead of UBC’s front zone. The final score in the second was 25-18 for the ’Birds.

In the third, an ace by Deshane would again be a turning point for the home side, as his third ace on the night squared the set up at 9-9. Late in the set, Guidi put up a big point for the home team. With a tricky tip over the net, his kill would put UBC ahead 21-16.

Their lead wouldn’t last long, as the Heat made a final push in an attempt to win the set late. Taking six points in a row, they closed in on the ’Birds right up to a 24-23 score line. Regehr made the last-minute save though, marking the final kill for UBC.

With that, the ’Birds defeated the Heat in three straight sets, putting UBC in shared fourth place in Canada West with an 8-4 record.

When asked what had changed in the team’s focus between games, MacDonald said, “Just kind of keying on some key guys on their side, and getting a better understanding of what their priorities are ... I thought we were slow in responding last night in game, but I thought we did a good job tonight preparing for that.”

Next weekend, the team heads out a road trip to face the Manitoba Bisons. Currently, the Bisons sit in shared first in Canada West, and are on a 10-match winning streak. Can UBC stop the powerhouse prairie side? You can catch the game here!