WINNIPEG – It was a night to remember for the No. 9 UBC Okanagan Heat men's volleyball team as they earned their first ever playoff win over the No. 10 Winnipeg Wesmen in five sets (25-22, 24-26, 21-25, 25-23, 15-13).
The Heat would come out strong in the first set, taking the early lead and maintaining it throughout the set. UBCO would go on a 6-1 run to take the lead 9-5. The two squads would trade points back-and-forth until the Heat would secure a five-point lead (16-11) at the technical timeout thanks to a kill from Abbotsford, B.C. product Cameron Vanderveen. The Wesmen would make a push to come back, but it would ultimately not be enough as the Heat shut down the set 25-22 of a kill from Vanderveen, assisted by Zach Van Geel (Calgary).
Starting out the second set, the Heat would again take the early lead, ahead by four points (16-12) at the technical timeout. The Wesmen would respond by going on two three-point runs to take the lead 21-20. The Heat would battle their way to a 24-22 lead over the Wesmen, however, a four-point run would result in a 26-24 set win for the Wesmen.
The third set would start out in favour of the Wesmen and remain in their control throughout. The Heat would trail by three points (16-13) at the technical timeout but would continue to push to control the Wesmen lead, bringing the score within two points at 17-19 off a kill from Max Heppell (Langley, B.C.). The Wesmen would respond with a quick three-point run, ultimately taking the set 25-21.
The fourth set would see plenty of close action, with the two squads battling to break the tie throughout the set. Neither squad would be able to gain a lead larger than two points until after the technical timeout. With the Wesmen leading 20-16, the Heat would go on a 5-1 run to tie it up at 21. The squads would be stuck fighting for the tiebreaker until an error by the Wesmen would give the Heat the set point and Heppell would lay down a kill to close out the set 25-23 for UBCO.
The fifth set would start out in favour of the Wesmen as they took the early lead 4-2. The Heat would bounce back to once again lock the two squads in a fight to break the tie. The Heat would go on a four-point run to give them a two-point advantage over the Wesmen, 11-9. Eventually, a kill by Heppell would give the Heat the set-point and an attack error by the Wesmen would secure the set for the Heat, 15-13.
Vanderveen would put up a solid performance for the Heat, contributing 13 kills, 10 digs, and three blocks, totalling 15.5 points on the night. Caleb Funk would also put up 15.5 points, adding 11 kills to hit an impressive .526. Rookie setter Zach Van Geel would set a personal record with 45 assists in a single game.
Daniel Thiessen (Winnipeg) would lead the Wesmen with an impressive 33 kills, finishing with 35 points. His efforts would be furthered by Nigel Nielsen (St. Andrews, Man.) who added 12 kills and 13 digs.
The head coach of the Heat, Brad Hudson, had this to say about his squad's historical victory:
"The biggest piece for us was just being more competitive in the moment and not letting the weight of an exceptional player (Daniel Thiessen) carry. So even though we strung together really good streaks, we really had to dial in to being present in the moment and once the ball is in the air, being competitive. It was really more about us, again, still relying on those core values, but trying to settle in and use our systems and skills and tactics as we should."
With the win, the Heat are now 1-1 in pool play, tied with the Wesmen for second with both teams trailing the Calgary Dinos (2-0). The Heat will meet Manitoba (0-2) in their final game on Saturday needing a win to advance to the second round of the playoffs while the Wesmen will take on Calgary.
The action gets underway from Winnipeg at 5:45 p.m. PT and can be seen live on CanadaWest.tv presented by Co-op.