After years as a powerhouse in the B.C. Colleges Athletic Association (now PacWest), the UBC Okanagan Heat showed they are up for a bigger challenge in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) volleyball Friday night.
Both the Heat men’s and women’s sides earned wins over the Winnipeg Wesmen in their Canada West Conference debuts.
Both teams needed four sets – (19-25, 25-21, 30-28, 25-20) for the men and (25-20, 26-24, 25-18, 26-24) for the women – to stop the Wesmen in front of a packed UBCO gym.
“I think that (the cheering home crowd) was huge for us,” said Heat coach Greg Poitras.
“We’ve got a lot of things that are sort of going against us with being a new team, being a former college team. We needed more support and that was a huge factor in trying to get the Wesmen rattled on the service line.”
The Heat’s returning fourth-year outside hitter Nate Speijer led his team with an astounding 28 kills. Fellow outside hitter Riley McFarland smacked 13 kills and 11 digs.
Poitras noted the effort of Vernon native Greg Niemantsverdriet, who hasn’t played in a match since tryouts.
“He’s been injured since September, so for him to come out and pass the ball well and be a leader, (he) stood out for me,” said Poitras.
The Wesmen’s third-year middle Devin Schmidt led his team through a tight game and tough loss with 12 kills.
On the women’s side, Heat fourth-year player Alex Basso, a two-time All-Canadian, paced the Heat with 14 kills and several aces. Third-year Myrte Schön had 10 kills and 14 digs, while Jill Festival contributed with 10 kills and 11 digs.
Schön and Festival strung together some impressive serves and kills to help take the win on the UBC Okanagan court.
Heat coach Steve Manuel was pleased with his team’s performance.
“We had so many players that stepped up and did great things at great times,” he said.
“To the people that were out there the whole time, and to the four or five players that came off the bench in key situations in that last set and got us through, wow.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams squared off against Winnipeg again Saturday night in Kelowna.