Written by Aaron Martin UBC Communications
VANCOUVER - The No. 4-ranked UBC Thunderbirds (23-7 overall, 20-4 in conference play) parlayed a balanced attack into a season-ending win on Saturday night, sweeping the Saskatchewan Huskies 3-0 in front of a boisterous crowd at War Memorial Gym.
Freshman outside hitter Kiera Van Ryk (12 kills, an ace) led a UBC offense that saw six players notch at least three kills apiece.
After UBC raced out to a 7-3 lead in the first set, the Huskies came storming back quickly. Buoyed by an excellent serving run from senior setter Mackenzie Pek, Saskatchewan claimed a 9-8 lead, forcing Reimer to take a timeout.
Down 11-10, a pair of back-to-back Van Ryn kills saw the 'Birds reclaim the lead, and they eventually stretched that out to a 22-19 advantage, often taking advantage of lacking coverage in the Huskies' back-right corner.
Eight Thunderbirds attacking errors, compared to just two such Huskies mistakes, kept the first frame closer in the latter stages, but the 'Birds managed to seal the 25-21 decision on sophomore Olivia Furlan's game-high sixth kill of the set.
After Pek opened the second stanza with two straight aces, the 'Birds took firm control of the frame in short order. Errors played another significant role in the early second set, as the Huskies proceeded to commit five, while the 'Birds ripped off seven kills en route to a 16-4 lead at the technical timeout.
With UBC up 18-6, two of Emily Koshinsky team-high 10 kills in the game were key as part of a 6-0 Huskies run to put the visitors within striking distance. The Huskies would only manage to close the gap to five, as UBC got their final six points of the set on kills, including a pair from Siobhan Finan to close it out.
The Thunderbirds never trailed in the third frame, as the offense continued to click. Up 12-9, the 'Birds ripped off four kills and an ace over the course of five points to dispel any notion of a Saskatchewan comeback, creating a clear separation before Gabrielle Attieh (nine kills, two aces) and Finan closed it out with a pair of daggers.
With the sweep, and UBCO's (19-5) upset loss to the Manitoba Bisons (12-12), the 'Birds claimed second place in the Canada West standings, and will officially take on the Regina Cougars (12-12) in the best-of-three quarterfinals series of the Canada West Playoffs.
The Huskies will now head into the offseason as the visitors were officially ousted from playoff contention with yesterday's setback. Meanwhile the 'Birds two guaranteed playoff games will run on Friday, February 23 and Saturday, February 25 at 6:00 p.m. PT, with a third game set for 4:00 p.m. PT on Sunday, February 25 if necessary. All three games will take place at War Memorial Gym.