Serving supremacy sends T-Birds on to Canada West semis

In a weekend that saw several Thunderbirds teams bow out of playoffs on the road, War Memorial Gym was one place that saw success for UBC’s teams. With the men’s volleyball team kicking off the weekend with a two-game sweep over the Manitoba Bisons, the women closed out volleyball's domination with a sweep of their own over the Regina Cougars.

After a 3-1 win on Friday night, the women’s side did one better with a three-set domination on Saturday. What’s more — it was a marked improvement performance-wise, something that will benefit the team going forward through the playoffs.

“I think first round of the quarterfinals is never perfect and it’s kind of where you get all your jitters out so I think we did that [on the] first night,” UBC captain and fifth-year Alessandra Gentile said of the team’s start to the weekend.

Similar to Friday, Regina burst onto the scene with a quick 6-0 lead in the first set. Ashlee Sandiford would go on a seven serve-run for the visitors, before UBC joined in on the scoring action. With Ciara Hanly finally getting the T-Birds on the board, a string of services from Olivia Furlan and Anna Price would bring the home team on par and then ahead by one point midway through the set. With two straight aces from Price in the home stretch, UBC would get to match point with a seven-point advantage over the Cougars, taking the 25-17 set win with a Kiera Van Ryk kill.

“I think it all starts from the service line, we had some people serve really well, the obvious one [being] Olivia [Furlan] … she took over that first set … and not just the aces but other people served the ball well enough to get them out of system and that limited Regina’s ability to run their offence,” UBC head coach Doug Reimer said.

Kiera Van Ryk tips the ball over the net.
Kiera Van Ryk tips the ball over the net. Patrick Gillin

Going into the second frame, Regina’s desperation started to set into their game. On the other side of the court, UBC looked like they had honed in on their own system, with Hanly and Gentile taking control over the net with strong blocks. A relatively easy set for the ’Birds gave bench players a chance to get involved, as Siobhan Finan and Danae Shephard were called into action. Finan would even get the final block of the set, giving UBC a two-set lead with a score of 25-14.

UBC would claim the final frame by 25-14 once again, with Furlan ending her stunning night with the last kill of the evening. The second-year would claim nine kills and seven services aces overall throughout the 3-0 sweep of the Bisons. Price and Van Ryk also had notable nights on court, with nine and eight kills respectively.

With the win, UBC moves on to face the UBC Okanagan Heat at home starting on Friday, March 2 for the Canada West semifinals. The two teams — currently ranked second and third in Canada West — haven’t faced each other since the first weekend of the regular season. With that comes its own challenges as neither team has had their sights on the other since 2017.

“All those teams in BC like Trinity [Western] and UBCO …. We’re always really excited to come to play them, so it’ll be a good match. And they’re a big team too right, so it’ll be exciting to see what happens,” Gentile said of the upcoming match up.

“What’s interesting about that semifinal match up is that was our first weekend of league play. So, to be honest, I haven’t watched them or prepared for them because this weekend was obviously the critical one …. But they’ve got a physical team, experienced team, it’s going to be much different,” Reimer said of their next opponent.

— with files from Zak Vescera