Zenan Sherbaniuk; Dinos Communications
CALGARY – The University of Calgary Dinos women's volleyball team drew first blood in their quarter-final matchup against the UBC Okanagan Heat Friday night, taking a straight sets win (25-21, 25-22, 25-13) at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium.
Coming into the game as the respective fourth and fifth seeds in Canada West, Calgary and UBC Okanagan looked to start out strong and grab the crucial first game in the best-of-three series.
The Dinos were coming off a rough weekend, having not won a single set against the University of Alberta Pandas.
"We talked a lot about how last weekend was important for us because it exposed some things that we needed to talk about and that wouldn't have been exposed if we hadn't played like that or played an opponent like U of A," Head Coach Natalie Gurnsey remarked. "We decided to reframe [the loss] and we didn't focus on the bad that we did; we focused on the 22 out of the 24 matches that we did well in the season. Obviously it worked out really well for us tonight."
Both teams showed some nerves in the early going, as five of the first 14 serves were hit out of bounds. The Dinos grabbed the initial lead of the set with an 8-2 run, giving them a 12-8 lead and forcing the first Heat timeout of the game. Calgary rolled in the early going, hitting at a 0.500 clip, taking them into the technical timeout with a 16-11 lead, after a Brianna Solberg kill. The Heat made a late comeback with a 5-1 run, closing the gap to two, forcing Natalie Gurnsey to use two timeouts in the process. After the two teams shared a lengthy rally, a Jillian Lazic solo block gave the Dinos set point at 24-21 and Jaylynn Moffatt finished it off with her fifth kill, following a bad pass by the Heat.
Moffatt and Kate Pexman led the Dinos offensively in the first set, as both finished with five kills. The Dinos, as a team, finished with 14, hitting 0.323. UBC Okanagan also finished with 14 kills but committed a few more errors and ended with a 0.258 attacking percentage.
After Calgary held a lead for the majority of the first set, both teams traded points in the beginning stages of set number two. UBC Okanagan went on a small 5-1 run, turning a two point deficit into a two point lead in the early going, only to see the Dinos tie it back up at ten. It remained close for the majority of the set, with the score tied or with the teams within one of each other.
The Dinos were able to distance themselves slightly, spreading the lead to four, but the Heat quickly closed it to one, forcing a Calgary timeout. Kate Pexman answered the bell out of the timeout, recording her ninth kill of the game and combining with Lazic on the block to give the Dinos a 22-19 lead. UBC Okanagan did not quit however, and brought it back within one before a Solberg kill gave Dinos set point at 24-22. The Dinos finished off the set on the next play with a combined block by Hannah Tanasichuk and Moffatt to give Calgary a commanding two sets to none lead.
The second set was also a shootout and both teams finished with attacking percentages above 0.400. Kate Pexman recorded another five kills for the Dinos and led all players with ten after two sets of play.
Down two sets to none, the Heat came out slow in the third, as they quickly trailed 11-5 and were forced to use both of their timeouts. UBC Okanagan was its own worst enemy recording five attacking errors against only two kills in the early going.
The Dinos cruised the entire set with a 13-2 run into the technical timeout, taking a commanding 16-6 lead in the process. It was never closer after that and Solberg gave Calgary match point at 24-12. The match ended on the next point, after another attacking error by the Heat, their 18th of the game.
Overall, Calgary was led by a balanced attack, as Pexman, Moffatt, Solberg, and Tanasichuk all finished with at least seven kills, with Pexman leading the group at 12. Siobhan Fitzpatrick, who finished with ten kills, led UBC Okanagan's attack.
Gurnsey applauded her leading hitters' ability to bounce back tonight.
"Kate Pexman is such a rock for this team; I never doubted it and I trust her to get the job done under pressure. She definitely didn't disappoint today."
With the win the Dinos take the 1-0 series lead and have the chance to finish off the sweep Saturday night. First serve is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium.
Photo by David Moll