WINNIPEG — The UBC Okanagan Heat tried to take advantage of the No. 10 ranked Winnipeg Wesmen men's volleyball team's long lay-off to capture their first win off the season.
Unfortunately the Wesmen recovered before the Heat could complete the comeback as UBCO fell to a score of 3-2 (25-19, 25-23, 19-25, 20-25, 15-7) on Friday in the Canada West conference match in the Duckworth Centre.
UBCO trailed early, dropping the first two sets, but then fought back hard to extend the match to a fifth. That's where the comeback ended for the visiting UBCO squad.
The Wesmen were playing in their conference opener, as it's been nearly four full weeks off for the home team and, the head coach says, at times it looked like it.
UBCO fell to 0-5 on the season while the Wesmen are merely 1-0, the product of having a first-week bye followed by another week off due to the folding of Regina's men's program in the off-season. What resulted was a 22-day layoff between an east-coast non-conference road trip and the start of the Wesmen conference season.
"The other team was really good and were actually very good in the second set forward," Wesmen head coach Larry McKay said. "We came through at the end of the second set with a few plays, but I felt like we were behind the 8-ball right from the second set forward. I thought it was pretty even.
"… (The layoff) has impacted us for sure. We need to get into the Canada West rhythm of two matches a weekend and we're not in that rhythm and this is kind of unknown territory for us."
The Heat were outgunned in the first set, but played it tight in the second, eventually getting over the hump with an inspired and energetic third and fourth in which the Wesmen fell back on their heels.
And while that was a positive for head coach Brad Hudson, it left him "conflicted", he said, given that the team was still left to chew on its 19th straight conference loss dating back to November 2017.
"We tend to think that we have a fairly resilient group, so I'm not surprised that they were able to come back," Hudson said. "We have a lot of new faces and players in new roles, so they have to learn how to play together … The problem with relying on being resilient is that usually it means you haven't started off very well, so you have to come back. So part of what we clearly need to do is learn how to start better."
After measuring up to the ranked Winnipeg squad the Heat will look to take down their hosts in the rematch. First serve on Saturday will be an early one as the men play prior to the women at the Duckworth Centre, match is set to start at 3 p.m. PT. catch the action live on Canada West.tv
~ David Larkins, Wesmen Athletics