Aneesa Heatherington/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – Another chapter was added to the UBC-UBCO rivalry on Friday night, as the Thunderbirds earned a 3-0 win (25-19, 25-19, 25-16) over the Heat Friday at War Memorial Gymnasium in the first match of 2017 for both squads.
The 'Birds took control early and were up 8-4 in the first set, but UBCO's Aidan Lea stuffed Danielle Brisebois to pull her team within two at 10-8. Maggie Li was a force at the net – blocking two straight Heat attacks to push the home side ahead 18-10 and smacking one of her six kills to allow UBC to go up 20-13 in the first.
The Thunderbirds were unable to convert their first five set points, as UBCO clawed their way back into the set at 24-18 to force a T-Bird timeout, before winning the next point as well to cap off a 5-0 run. Lea started the surge with a kill and Megan Festival rounded things out with a pair of aces. After re-organizing, Brisebois spanked her sixth of a team-high 15 kills to close out the first set 25-19.
Festival had three aces in all, to go along with eight kills and eight digs, leading her squad in all three categories. Lea had three blocks and Sara McCreary recorded 14 assists for UBC Okanagan.
Ciara Hanly's serve was too much for the Heat to handle to start the second, as UBC won the first six points of the set. The run include a couple of aces from Hanly.
After a semester away on exchange, Juliana Kaufmanis had a sparkling return to War Memorial Gym, as her third block gave the T-Birds a set point – which they converted on a UBCO hitting error to take the second 25-19.
It was much of the same in the third, as Hanly had two straight blocks to put the 'Birds up 5-1 and Brisebois got a friendly roll along the net on a kill to maintain a 16-10 lead. On their third match point, a UBCO service error gave the Thunderbirds a 25-16 set win for the shutout.
Kaufmanis added eight kills and four digs in her first game back with the Thunderbirds.
"I'm really appreciated to be back here and playing this game," said Kaufmanis. "It felt really fluid out there with the girls too, which was nice to see after being away for so long."
UBC head coach Doug Reimer is looking forward to the positive impact the fifth-year hitter will have on, and off, the floor.
"It was really nice to see her back. She bring so much around the court…stability and her defence – she did well offensively too and I think that helped keep us in system. We served the ball really well and that always makes your blocking and your defence easier."
Despite the straight-sets victory, Kaufmanis isn't taking UBCO lightly heading into the rematch on Saturday evening.
"We did well tonight, but at the same time I know the Heat are a really talented team and can bring a lot tomorrow, so we have to be prepared and try and stay as steady as possible moving forward."
Reimer agreed, and is aware of the Heat's ability to play from behind.
"I've seen this team come back, they can play with a lot of momentum. You saw that tonight in a couple of sets where it looks like they're down but then they get going. We have to bring the same level of execution tomorrow."
Both teams now sport 8-3 records in Canada West play, they will face off again Saturday at War Memorial Gym, with the first serve slated for 5 p.m. PT.
PHOTO CREDIT: Wilson Wong/UBC Thunderbirds