'Birds come up clutch in series-opening sweep of WolfPack

'Birds come up clutch in series-opening sweep of WolfPack

Aaron Martin/UBC Thunderbirds

VANCOUVER – They were not interested in a fourth set.

Down 24-23 in the third frame, the UBC Thunderbirds women's volleyball team engineered a gutsy 3-1 run to pick up the set, completing the 3-0 sweep of the Thompson Rivers WolfPack in Game 1 of their Canada West quarter-final series on Friday night at War Memorial Gym.

Final set scores were 25-16, 25-23, 26-24.

"There's a saying in volleyball that you need to be good after the 20," said UBC head coach Doug Reimer. "After 20 points, you need to show the ability to close out tight games, and we did that well in both the second and third sets tonight. Of course, we'd like it if we had larger margins more often, but the resiliency to win those tight sets is important."

Juliana Kaufmanis led the 'Birds with game-highs of 13 kills and three aces, while Danielle Brisebois had 11 and two for the home side. Maggie Li was hyper-efficient from the middle of the floor, coming down with nine kills on just 12 swings, adding two aces and a dig.

Midway through, the 'Birds broke open what was a tightly contested opening frame. Up just 12-9, Kaufmanis had three kills on the next four points to open up a 15-10 lead for the T-Birds.

Li was an all-around force in the latter half of the frame, not only serving as a defensive deterrent and picking up a couple of kills, but also delivering excellent service and forcing the WolfPack into poor returns. UBC closed out the frame on an 8-3 stretch, with an attacking error from WolfPack star outside hitter Iuliia Pakhomenko, sealing the T-Birds win.

Once holding a lead as large as seven points, 19-12, in the second frame, a few key mistakes and some excellent attacking from the WolfPack saw them pull even with an 8-1 run, including three kills from Rachel Windhorst, setting up a wild finish.

Knotted up 23-23, Li dropped the hammer on a kill to put the 'Birds back up by one. On the next point, a poor set from Thompson Rivers allowed the 'Birds to escape with the second set in their pockets.

Neither side was able to pull away early in the third. Kaitlin Lomas and Rachel Windhorst combined for a block that put TRU up 14-11. Kills by Windhorst and Morgan Kolasa increased the WolfPack advantage to 21-16. After the teams traded points, UBC won the next five to tie the proceedings at 22-22.

At 23-23, a UBC serving error gave TRU a set point. Pulling UBC out of the hole, Kaufmanis and Li picked up back-to-back kills on the next two sequences, before another Pakhomenko error gave the 'Birds the set.

Despite the result, Reimer expects that his squad will need to show something more tomorrow, as they prepare for Game 2.

"Overall, I don't think that was our best game," said the coach. "We were good in parts, and we showed well late in sets, but we'll need to be better tomorrow, because they are going to come out fighting for their lives."

The second contest of the Canada West quarter-finals is scheduled for a 5 p.m. (PT) start tomorrow night at War Memorial Gym.

IMAGE CREDIT: Wilson Wong/UBC Thunderbirds