The one left standing: Thunderbirds outlast Cougars in Canada West stamina test

Sometimes, endurance is the key to success. On Friday night, UBC’s women’s volleyball team had endurance in spades.

Defeating the Regina Cougars 3-1 at War Memorial Gym, the Thunderbirds earned themselves the leg up in their quarterfinal best-of-three series, given them a comfortable cushion going into their rematch tonight and a chance to end the contest early. The win also came as a bit of a confidence booster — similar to the men’s team’s match up against the Bisons on Thursday — as they put their last loss to the Cougars behind them.

Prior to Friday’s match up, UBC’s last loss came at the hands of Regina. For the Cougars, their last win of the regular season was that game against UBC.

Lots of history, and lots now put in the past.

Regina came out the gate fast and furious, leading through most of the first set with the likes of Diana Lambala, Kathleen Ens and Jessica Lerminiaux taking all the points they could up against the net. Their work would pay off, stunning the home side Thunderbirds with a 25-16 set win.

The ’Birds started to pick up their pace through the second. Net violations and blocks from Regina’s attack line swayed many of the drawn out plays in the visitor’s favour, though Kiera Van Ryk and Sam Patko put in gutsy digs to try to keep the Thunderbirds in it. With points being exchanged back and forth, UBC’s key seemed to be playing the ball into the back left corner of Regina’s side of the court — which paid off in the end. Though it was only a marginal win, UBC took the set 25-23.

“We definitely knew that they were going to come out hard, and they really wanted a piece of us tonight because they’ve already gotten [a win against us] before...,” Olivia Furlan said post-game of the contest.

Olivia Furlan sets up to send the ball over the net.
Olivia Furlan sets up to send the ball over the net. Elizabeth Wang

Through both the first and second set, lengthy rallies kept the teams on the court longer than usual and forced both sides to keep in mental check.

“We have to stay really patient to win long rallies and I think early on especially ... we lacked the composure to just hang in there if it took three, four times across the net,” UBC head coach Doug Reimer said of the battles on the night. “... We needed to just be — it’s a fine balance — steady and composed but be a little more assertive and [have] a little more positive energy when things aren’t going our way."

It was another back and forth set in the third, but UBC brought it home through the final stretch, as Van Ryk set them on their way with a string of kills. Olivia Furlan would close out the set for the T-Birds with a service ace, ending with a convincing 25-18 lead.

The fourth set was even further in UBC’s favour, as the Thunderbirds seemed to be back on their usual form. Captain Alessandra Gentile would put in the final dump to take the match with a fourth set score of 25-14.

“In the fourth set, I thought Gabby Attieh had a good serving run, I thought Olivia [Furlan] had a bunch of good kills and we just kept them more back on their toes and it gets easier if we can force them to be out of system,” Reimer said of how his team closed out the match.

The 3-1 win puts UBC up by one game in the best-of-three Canada West quarterfinal series. The teams will face each other once again on Saturday night at 6 p.m. at War Memorial Gym.

“Having had that first half of that match out of our system, [I hope] that we sort of get after it a little bit earlier and a little bit more consistently,” Reimer said of the upcoming rematch.

— with files from Elizabeth Wang