Heat take third straight to start season

Heat take third straight to start season

Grayson Leahy, UBC Okanagan Heat

KELOWNA, BC - The UBC Okanagan Heat and the University of Manitoba Bisons kicked off their third week of 2016/17 Canada West women's volleyball competition with a Remembrance Day matchup. The hometown Heat took it by a final score of 3-1, with set scores of 25-23, 23-25, 25-20, and 25-22.

The match was closely-contested throughout, with no set's victor certain until the final point was scored. The big difference for the Heat on the night was their hitting, as they put away 63 kills compared to Manitoba's 52. Hitting percentages were nearly identical on the night, with the Heat hitting .239 and the Bisons hitting .236, but the number of opportunities were in UBC Okanagan's favour thanks to a 44 assist night from Emily Oxland.

Oxland also had three service aces in the match, putting her career total at 133, just five away to the all-time Canada West record set last year by Brandon's Shanlee McLennan.

Siobhan Fitzpatrick was the most dominant hitter for UBC Okanagan, scoring 18 kills in the match. Megan Festival followed for the night, putting away 13 kills and earning 15 digs.

Kearley Abbott was a leader all around for the visiting Bisons, finishing the match with a stat line of 17 kills, .515 hit%, 12 digs, four blocks, three assists, and a service ace.

The fourth was the closest of the night's sets in all but final score. It saw eight lead changes, both teams stayed within striking distance, and UBC Okanagan only allowed one three-point run. The Bisons held a late lead at 19-18, but three straight errors up front gave away that lead and put the Heat up 21-19. The visitors tied it up again at 21-21, but three kills and a service ace in the final five points of the match cemented it for the Heat. UBC Okanagan's hitting was on full display in the final set, scoring 19 kills.

The first set went to the Heat, 25-23. It opened close, with the Bisons jumping out to a 5-2 lead early. The Heat took their first lead at 7-6 after a pair of kills and a service ace from Megan Festival, and they never gave it back. Consecutive Manitoba kills from Kearley and Josie Abbott brought the set even again at 11-11, before UBC Okanagan ran out ahead. A late comeback in the set brought the score to 24-23, thanks to three kills in five points from Kearley Abbott. Festival scored the set-winning point on her eighth kill of the set. Kearley Abbott also led the Bisons with eight.

UBC Okanagan took the lead early again in the second set, but much like the first couldn't quite put it out of reach, and the Bisons fought back late to flip the score of the first set and win the second 25-23. In an interesting stretch later on in the set, five straight points were scored on service errors, from 16-15 through 19-17 for the Heat. Manitoba stayed within five all the way through, pulling within one at 17-16. Siobhan Fitzpatrick broke the streak of service errors with her fifth kill of the match, giving her Heat a promising 20-17 lead. Again the Bisons came back though, tying the set at 20-20 after a pair of Festival attack errors. A Kearley Abbott kill and a Sydney Booker service ace put the Bisons up 22-20, and Sarah Klassen's fifth kill on the night put the set away for Manitoba.

The third set started just as even, but the Heat took over about halfway through and won 25-20, going up 2-1 in the match. Down 10-9, the Heat went on a tear, scoring six straight points during a strong serving run by Emily Oxland. The last Heat point in that run came on a huge block by Erin Drew and Michelle Jakszuk that put the Heat up 15-11 and swung the momentum even more in UBC Okanagan's favour. Drew and Jakszuk then scored the next two Heat points on consecutive kills, giving the Heat a five-point lead at 17-12. Another big block, this time by Aidan Lea and Kaitlynn Given, put the Heat up 21-18. Fitzpatrick's 12th kill of the match was the final point of the set. 

The Heat (3-0) and Bisons (2-3) will play again tomorrow night, with first serve scheduled for 5 p.m. in the UBC Okanagan gymnasium.

NOTES: Two of the UBCO fifth year players are chasing down a Canada West conference record as the season gets rolling along. Both Emily Oxland and Megan Festival have been outstanding from the service line their entire careers and are within striking distance of the conference record in service aces. Last season Brandon's Shanlee McLennan finished her fiver years with the Bobcats totalling (138) service aces. After the match on Friday (Nov. 11) versus Manitoba Emily Oxland has (133) career aces and Megan Festival has (128).