Stu Walters / UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds are off to the Canada West Final after a 2-0 sweep of the UBC Okanagan Heat and a game two 3-0 victory (25-19, 25-18, 25-17) in the best-of-three Canada West semifinal series at War Memorial Gym.
UBC's Olivia Furlan delivered a match-high 12 kills while Kiera Van Ryk wasn't far behind with 10 kills and six digs. Fifth-year setter Alessandra Gentile added 32 assists to go along with three kills and eight digs while fourth-year libero and UBC's player of the game, Samantha Patko went low for a match-high 14 digs.
For the Heat, it was Michelle Jakszuk with team highs in both kills with six and digs with 12 while Siobhan Fitzpatrick added five kills and three digs. Sara McCreary tallied a team high 15 assists and the Heat's player of the game, Natalie Livingston contributed two assists, one service ace and one dig.
UBC jumped out to a 7-2 first set lead forcing Heat head coach Steve Manuel to call his first timeout which sparked the visitors to three straight points to climb within 7-5. As the frame progressed Gabrielle Attieh's second kill increased the 'Birds lead to 19-15 causing a second UBCO timeout before T-Birds coach Doug Reimer would have to call one of his own with the Heat narrowing the gap to 21-18. Attieh's third kill in the opener would set up set point at 24-19 ahead of Victoria Behie tooling a block to secure the first set 25-19. Furlan enjoyed a set high 5 kills while Attieh and Behie chipped in with three each. Leading the way for the Heat was Erin Drew with an impressive four service aces and three kills.
In the second set UBC enjoyed leads of 5-2 & 13-8 ahead of a UBCO timeout, the Heat's Aiden Lee would later deliver a resounding middle block to pull within 15-11 but UBC's Ciara Hanly would respond with big middle block of her own and a 16-11 advantage at the technical timeout. Attieh and Van Ryk Kills would lead to a 24-18 set point lead ahead of the Heat attack going long to drop a second straight frame 25-18. Furlan delivered four more kills and Van Ryk added three to her total while Samantha Patko chipped in with five digs. Stepping up for the Heat was Michelle Jakszuk with four kills and four digs.
In the third and deciding set the 'Birds were in a groove in jumping out to leads of 5-1 and 10-2 thanks to a Furlan block leading to the Heats second timeout of the frame. An Anna Price ace increased UBC's advantage to 16-6 before a monstrous Van Ryk kill put it to 17-6. After another UBCO timeout the traveling team would battle back to climb within 19-14 and forcing a timeout for the hosts. UBC would respond on the strength of a couple Furlan kills setting up match point where a net violation from the visitors would decide the proceedings and a 25-17 T-Birds victory.
Thunderbirds head coach Doug Reimer was pleased with his team's efficient execution on the night.
"I thought we showed great steadiness and we got lots of contributions across the board," said Reimer. "As a team coming into playoffs you need everybody going and to beat a team like UBCO two matches straight and to win 3-0 tonight I look at our level of consistency. Siding out at 60 percent against a good blocking, defensive team that should be a huge confidence builder for our group."
Reimer added that there were several great performances and one of them was from Olivia Furlan who stepped up at key moments.
"She's a second-year setter and right side and contributing a ton in a lot of areas so I'm sure she's giving opposing coach's fits because it's just one more element."
The defending national champion Thunderbirds will travel to Calgary next Saturday, March 10 for a one-game Canada West Championship Final after the Dinos swept the University of Alberta 2-0 in their best-of-three semifinal series.
PHOTO: Rich Lam, UBC Thunderbirds