The UBC Okanagan Heat men’s volleyball team reached the Canada West quarterfinals after finishing the regular season seventh at 8-12. This year’s squad hopes to take another step forward and challenge the top teams in the CIS.
“After a week of practice, I’m really pleased with how we look,” said Greg Poitras, who enters his eighth season as head coach at UBC Okanagan. “Everyone, all 16 student-athletes, are in tremendous physical shape and they are ready get better this year.”
Although UBC Okanagan lost three fifth-year players in Preston Tucker of Vernon, Mark Broome and Spencer Brown, they have no shortage of talent with Canada West All-Star Nate Speijer (Penticton/Pen Hi), back for his fifth campaign, and All-Rookie Teamer Jeremy Fostvelt (Surrey/Earl Marriot) also returning.
In addition to Speijer, the Heat will look to seniors Riley McFarland (White Rock/Semiahmoo), Brett Uniat (Cochrane/Bow Valley), Jeremy Kler (Vernon/Seaton Sonics), and also fourth-year Greg Niemantsverdriet (Vernon/VSS Panthers) for leadership.
“They have all stepped up as leaders and have really taken a lot of pride and ownership of the team,” said Poitras.
The 5-foot-8 Kler will share the libero spot with Fostvelt, while the 6-foot-3 Niemantsverdriet is one of seven outside hitters.
Poitras has also been impressed with his freshman recruits, most coming from high-level club teams and provincial teams.
“Their biggest adjustment now is learning our system and understanding what is being asked of them,” he said.
UBC Okanagan opens the exhibition season Wednesday when they face the two-time defending national champion Trinity Western Spartans at Kelowna Secondary.
The Heat will then entertain the Under 23 Argentinean national team Friday at UBCO Gym. Argentina is in Kelowna for some exhibition matches before competing in the U23 Pan American Cup in Langley.
UBCO will then head to the Lower Mainland over the Thanksgiving weekend to play Fudan University (China), UBC Thunderbirds of Vancouver and Trinity Western.
Added Poitras: “I’m very excited about our exhibition schedule this year. It is one of the toughest we have ever put together and is going to prepare us for the Canada West Conference.”
UBCO has also added a post-Christmas trip to Los Angeles to their exhibition schedule. They will take on NCAA powerhouse USC Trojans as well as Cal State Northridge and Cal Baptist.