In a Friday night clash for Canada West glory against the number one ranked Calgary Dinos, the UBC women’s volleyball team solidified second place in playoffs. Although the match finished 3-1 in Calgary’s favour, hardware and a place in the U Sports championships were still silver linings on the night for the 'Birds.
UBC opened with two strong kills in the first frame, hoping to set the tone for the match. However, the Dinos rallied back with five straight points, voiding the Thunderbirds’ initial efforts. On defence, Calgary’s tall blockers were giving the T-Birds no room to work with. Despite this, the set remained close. Calgary maintained a two to three-point lead to the 20-point mark before the Dinos ran home with the opening set 25-21.
In the second, UBC looked determined to get one back, taking a five-point lead early. Setter Alessandra Gentile made some decisive choices at the net, finding holes in the Dinos defence while they were looking to set up blocks for the assumed impending spikes from UBC.
An injury to starter Gabrielle Attieh — who looked to have injured her knee after landing with a straight leg after a spike — gave the ’Birds bench an opportunity to enter the game, with the likes of Danae Shephard joining in on the court. UBC remained marginally ahead, taking as much as a six-point lead as the team rallied behind their injured player. The ’Birds would eventually take the second set 25-20.
Both teams were poised to make a statement in the third frame. UBC’s finishing was strong to start and gave them a 7-3 lead, but Calgary would score four quick points to bring it back to a deadlock. The ’Birds and Dinos would trade points until 18-18, with both utilizing their outside hitters to mix up plays and keep each other on their toes. Calgary would break away to a four-point lead late in the set, getting them to a marginal 25-22 set win.
Miscommunications and miscues by UBC cost them a few valuable points early in the fourth. Although the ’Birds kept it close, Calgary looked poised to take the Canada West title as they took advantage of broken plays and longer rally points. In a last ditch effort as Calgary clamoured to an 11-4 lead, UBC tried to use their bench to reinvigorate their play on the court. The ’Birds would scrape back a few points, but the Dinos continued to spread UBC’s block with good cross court movement to rack up their tally.
The T-Birds players looked less than thrilled at the score line: a 12 point deficit.
Fifth-year Gentile came back on late to try and bring the ’Birds back into the game, but there would be no heroic comeback as the Dinos claimed the final set 25-10, closing out the match.
For the Dinos, it would be their first Canada West title since 2005. For the T-Birds, they headed home with the silver and important experience against a potential rival on the road to the U Sports gold medal game, should UBC make it that far.
The national tournament begins this Friday at Laval University in Quebec City. Canada West will be represented by both Calgary and UBC, alongside UBC Okanagan and Alberta.