Zenan Sherbaniuk; Dinos Communications
CALGARY – The University of Calgary Dinos women's volleyball team lost a heartbreaker Saturday night, falling to the UBC Okanagan Heat in five sets (20-25, 29-27, 21-25, 28-26, 13-15) at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium.
Coming off a dominating straight sets win the night before, the Dinos looked to punch their ticket to the Canada West Final Four next weekend in Edmonton.
Similar to last night's affair, the Heat started strong, grabbing the first two points. After consecutive lengthy rallies went the way of Dinos, with Jillian Lazic putting it away down the middle and Kate Pexman converting with a cross-court kill, Calgary trailed by a score of 5-4.
UBC Okanagan caught a tough break early, as Siobhan Fitzpatrick, the Heat's leading attacker during the regular season, rolled her ankle in the first set with the her team up 11-9. The Dinos went on a 7-2 run thereafter, heading into the technical timeout with a lead. UBC Okanagan battled back and took a lead with a 6-1 run on the back of strong serving from Kaitlynn Given, forcing Natalie Gurnsey to use a timeout.
The Dinos were able to close it to within one, but that was as close as they got, as the Heat rolled to a 25-20 first set win. UBC Okanagan played a scrappy set, recording four blocks and three service aces, coming out with the first set win despite Calgary recording more kills (16-10).
After dropping the opening set, and conceding the first two points in the second, Calgary rallied off five straight points to force an early UBC Okanagan timeout. The Heat were finally able to stop the run with a combo block from Erin Drew and Megan Festival, but not before the Dinos had strung together seven points in a row.
Once down by as much as five, UBC Okanagan was able to tie it up at 12 and took a lead on the next point with a combo block from Given and Drew, part of a 7-1 run that forced a Calgary timeout.
The Heat continued their strong play and took a 16-13 lead into the technical timeout. UBC Okanagan grabbed set point at 24-22, following an Emily Oxland service ace but were unable to convert after kills by Pexman and Hannah Tanasichuk tied it back up at 24. The Heat had another set point but Calgary staved off defeat again with a Pexman kill.
Calgary was finally able to take the lead 26-25, their first since being up 12-11. The Dinos needed three set points before they finally closed it out with a 29-27 victory.
The third set started with a quick 5-2 Heat run, but the Dinos took five straight points to grab a lead of their own. UBC Okanagan retook the lead after four straight points, including back-to-back service aces by Megan Festival, which forced a Calgary timeout. They stretched this to a six point lead and were able to hang on for the 25-21 third set win.
Calgary's struggles were mostly self inflicted, as they recorded more attacking errors (23-17), serving errors (10-5), and serve reception errors (9-3) than UBC Okanagan through the first three sets. The Heat played the Dinos tough at the net, recording 13 blocks, as they grabbed a two sets to one lead.
After three exciting sets, the fourth was no different in the early going. Four straight points by the Heat forced Gurnsey to use her first timeout early, with her team down 9-11. Tanasichuk was able to stop the run with a kill down the right side but not before UBC Okanagan had scored six straight points.
For the third set in a row, the Heat were able to take a lead into the technical timeout, up 16-14.
With the Dinos clawing back, UBC Okanagan was forced to use a timeout when their lead was whittled down to one. The Heat subsequently took three straight points, to take a 22-18 lead, causing Calgary to use its last timeout of the set.
After the Dinos closed the deficit to one, Aidan Lea's 15th kill of the game gave the Heat match point at 24-22. The Dinos staved off defeat on four occasions and took set point after a Pexman roll shot dropped to the court. Pexman finished off the set with another kill, her 18th, to give the Dinos a 28-26 win and force a fifth set.
In the fifth and deciding set, Calgary took an early 4-2 lead, forcing a quick UBC Okanagan timeout. It remained close as the Dinos took a small 8-7 lead with a Jaylynn Moffatt kill as the teams changed sides at the halfway point of the set.
After an Emily Oxland service ace gave the Heat a 13-12 lead, Head Coach Natalie Gurnsey used her final timeout of the match. Another service ace gave UBC Okanagan match point, but Calgary avoided defeat for the time being after Tanasichuk recorded her 17th kill, which forced the Heat to use their final timeout.
Tanasichuk committed a service error to give UBC Okanagan the 15-13 set win and the match in the process.
Six players recorded double digit kills in a match that took two hours and 24 minutes to complete, led by Aidan Lea's 19 and Kate Pexman's 18.
These two teams will battle again Sunday afternoon, with the winner advancing to the Canada West Final Four. First serve is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium.
Photo by David Moll