Stu Walters / UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER - The UBC Thunderbirds extended their winning streak to four straight games thanks to a 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-20) straight sets victory over the UBC Okanagan Heat at War Memorial Gym Saturday night.
Matt Neaves recorded a game high 13 kills and three digs for UBC while Michael Dowhaniuk added 12 kills and four digs. Jordan Deshane chipped in with five kills and 3 service aces and Coltyn Liu registered five kills and four digs. Zec Johnson added a game high 37 assists for UBC who saw their record improve to 6-10.
For the Heat Max Heppell led the way with eight kills and three digs while Matt Aubrey collected six kills and four digs. Brennan Goski added five digs and four kills as UBCO fell to 0-18 in the Canada West regular season.
"We really challenged our guys to stay present within each point and just having a one point mentality regardless of the combination of line-up on the other side, we just wanted to focus on our job," said UBC head coach Mike Hawkins. "I thought UBCO actually played quite well especially defensively but I thought we stayed level throughout the match."
In the first set the T-Birds got out to sluggish start that saw them trailing 9-4 and caused head coach Mike Hawkins to call a timeout to spark his squad, the quick break would help as hosts would respond by scoring the next five points to take a 10-9 lead which they never looked back from en route to a 25-18 win. Deshane helped set the tone for the 'Birds 5-0 run highlighted by two service aces while also adding a set high four kills the rest of the way. Dowhaniuk was just in arrears with three kills while Neaves and Johnson each added two kills. For the visitors Aubrey led the way with three kills and one dig while Heppell helped out with two kills and one dig.
In the second frame the T-Birds relied upon a .455 hitting efficiency to help them to an identical 25-18 win once again. Neaves went high at the middle of the net for a demonstrative kill and a 16-13 UBC advantage at the technical timeout. Not long after Deshane dialed up his third service ace of the night for a 19-14 lead ahead of Neaves sending a well-executed Kill down the line bringing UBC to set point at 24-16. Johnson Li and Heppel would answer back with emphatic kills for UBCO before Dowhaniuk would deliver the final dagger for the hosts and a 25-18 set winning kill.
Gerrard Murray's second ace of the night put UBC in front 10-6 in set number three before UBCO's Li showed off his vertical with a big block on the 'Birds Colton Liu and a 12-8 score line. Liu, however wouldn't be denied as the set rolled on going sky high to register two more of his four kills in the set to help the T-Birds to a 23-17 edge. In the end, it was UBC's Danny Aspenlieder making his one kill on the night count as he climbed high to hit a no doubter into the Heat's side of the court and secure a 25-20 win and 3-0 straight sets victory.
"These first two weekends were crucial for us," added Hawkins. "In our pursuit of a playoff spot, obviously we have a tough test next weekend against Trinity Western University but we know the work we need to put in the rest of the semester to make playoffs and obviously starting 4-0 is a good beginning to 2019."
The Heat will now have two weeks between matches, returning to the court for back to back road games against the Alberta Golden Bears February 8 and 9. The T-Birds meanwhile will hit the highway next weekend to meet the rival Trinity Western Spartans.
PHOTO: Rich Lam / UBC Thunderbirds