EDMONTON, AB - The UBC Okanagan men’s volleyball team fell by a final score of 3-1 to the University of Alberta Golden Bears on Friday night in Edmonton. Set scores were 25-17, 25-16, 21-25, and 25-23.
The biggest difference in the match was consistency on the attack. The Bears put up exceptional hitting percentages in all but the fourth set, the only one in which the Heat percentage was higher.
Alberta’s attack was dominant on Friday night, putting away 53 kills to the Heat’s 38. Hitting percentages were also well in favour of the Bears, who finished with .319 and held the Heat to .194. Blocks were nearly even, with Alberta just barely taking the advantage with nine total blocks to UBC Okanagan’s eight.
The Golden Bears’ Ryan Nickifor had the best individual hitting night, finishing with 24 kills and a .500 hitting percentage. Behind him was Chris Towe, who finished with nine kills.
Alex Swiatlowski led the way for the Heat hitters, putting away 10 kills in the match. Second highest in kills was Joshua Harvey, who finished with seven and four blocks.
Throughout the match Alberta was able to keep the Heat from stringing together points, and UBCO weren’t able to put together a three-point run until the third set.
The third set saw the Heat play their best volleyball of the night. They put away 14 kills and hit .370, their highest set numbers of the night. A pair of runs just before the technical time-out were the turning point, as the Heat strung three straight together to go up 11-9, then scored four consecutive points to take a 16-12 lead into the break. A number of errors brought Alberta close, at 22-19 after a four-point run of their own. Two kills from Swiatlowski and another from Devon Cote were enough to close out the final points, and the Heat took it 25-21.
The second set saw the largest margin of victory in the match. It was taken over by the Bears early on, when they capitalized on UBCO’s mistakes and put together a six-point run to go up 13-7. At the technical time-out the home side held a 16-9 lead and they didn’t let the Heat score consecutive points from then through the end of the frame, taking it 25-16.
The first set saw Alberta put together an attack that would set the pace for the rest of the match. They hit .348 and held the Heat to -.037, and kills were 14-7 for the Bears. A pair of three-point runs early on were the difference, as the Bears jumped ahead 12-5. At the technical time-out Alberta was up 16-9, and the Heat weren’t able to catch up before a Nickifor kill closed it out 25-17 for Alberta.
The final set saw the Bears close out the match with a 25-23 set win, the closest margin of the night. The Heat had the better hitting percentage in the frame, .227 - .174, but kills were 11-10 in favour of Alberta. UBC Okanagan had the lead at the technical time-out, up 16-15. Immediately after the break was when the Bears took over though, as they strung together two three-point runs to jump ahead 19-17 and then 23-20. A kill from Cote brought the Heat within one at 23-24 and held off match point, but a service error provided the final point as the Bears took the set and the match.
With the road loss the UBC Okanagan Heat's record falls to (5-14) while the Bears improve to 16-3 on the season, keeping them in third in the Canada West standings at the end of Friday night's conference action with a decent six-point lead on fourth-place UBC with five matches left in the regular season. They are also four points back of the idle Trinity Western Spartans, which have four games left.
The Heat will play the University of Alberta Golden Bears will play in Edmonton again tomorrow night, with first serve scheduled for 8 p.m. MST (7 p.m. Pacific time).
~ Grayson Leahy, UBC Okanagan
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