CALGARY, AB - The UBC Okanagan Heat had their undefeated start to the season ended by the Mount Royal Cougars on Saturday night at Kenyon Court in Calgary. The Heat took the first and third sets, but the second, fourth, and fifth went to the Cougars, who took the 3-2 win on home court.
Kaitlynn Given led all hitters in the Heat loss, finishing the match with 21 kills, and was followed by Megan Festival and Siobhan Fitzpatrick, who each finished with 11. Cassidy Kitchen (14) and Kylie Willis (13) led the Cougars as the only two Mount Royal hitters to finish with double-digit kill numbers.
Megan Festival and Emily Oxland came into the match just shy of the all-time Canada West service aces record (138), with 136 and 137 respectively. Festival finished the match with two aces, and Oxland had one, so both now sit even with Shanlee McLennan, the previous record-holder, with 138.
Saturday night was the first time this season that the Heat had been forced to play a fifth set. The Heat hit -0.50 in the set, with four kills, while the Cougars put away eight kills on .091. The set was book-ended by Taylor Pelland kills, as she scored her sixth and ninth kills for the first and last points in the deciding frame. The Heat took a lead early on, after a three-point run to go up 5-2. A six-point run by the Cougars, from down 6-8 to up 12-8, was the difference though. Two Pelland kills and a Heat service error made up the final three points, as the Cougars took the match-clinching set, 15-10.
The Heat finished the match behind in all statistical categories except for kills (59-57), and total blocks (15-12). The Cougars hit .206 for the match, and finished with 13 service aces, which combined with UBC Okanagan’s 17 combined service and reception errors was enough to hand UBCO the rare loss.
The first set was indicative of what the full match would be, with the Heat eventually taking it in extra points, 27-25. It was the Heat’s best hitting set of the night, as they had 17 kills (.400) against the Cougars’ 13 (.139). An eight-point run in the middle of the set gave the Heat a big lead, at 16-6, but it was quickly followed by successive four- and five-point runs by the Cougars, which gave the home team a 20-19 lead. Mount Royal then went up 24-21, but the Heat fought back thanks to four kills in five points, before a block by Kaitlynn Given and Aidan Lea scored the final point.
The second set was nearly as close as the first, until the Cougars closed out strong with a four-point run that included a pair of Cassidy Kitchen kills, to take it 25-19. Kaitlynn Given had an impressive six kills in the set, but errors at the net and on the serve were the difference as Mount Royal tied the match up at 1-1.
The Heat won their only other set of the night in the third, taking it 25-21 despite being out-hit 14(.257)–11(.167). The difference in the set was a pair of four-point runs late, as the Heat came back from 12-16 to go up 19-17. They closed out the set thanks to a number of Cougars attack errors, kills from Erin Drew and Megan Festival, and a Fitzpatrick service ace.
The fourth set went the other way again, as Mount Royal tied the match again, at 2-2. It was the biggest point differential to end at set on the night, with the Cougars taking it by seven, 25-18. The Heat put down 14 kills in the fourth, but only hit .080. Mount Royal was able to force a fifth set by closing out the fourth with a six-point run, with the final four straight points coming on UBC Okanagan errors. As in the second set, errors were the Heat’s downfall.
The UBC Okanagan Heat (5-1) will play their next matches on the road again, travelling to Regina to play the other Cougars team (0-6) in Canada West, on November 25 & 26.