VANCOUVER - Opening the final weekend of the Canada West regular season, the UBC Thunderbirds (22-7 overall, 19-4 in conference play) played up to their no. 4 ranking in the USports national polls on Friday night, dominating much of the night against the Saskatchewan Huskies (9-14, 9-14) and claiming a 3-1 win at War Memorial Gym.
Final set scores were 25-15, 25-7, 16-25, and 25-13.
Ciara Hanly was a two-way force for UBC, as the fourth-year middle blocker shared the team lead with 11 kills, while adding five blocks and three digs. Sophomore setter/outside hitter Olivia Furlan brought down 11 kills, to go along with five aces, while third-year OH Anna Price netted all of her game-high six service aces in a wild second frame.
The 'Birds got the game started with a blitz, as a 7-2 UBC run from the opening whistle forced Saskatchewan head coach Mark Dodds to call an early time out.
Despite an marked improvement from the Huskies, the 'Birds proved too much over the latter portion of the frame. Violent kills from Hanley, Kiera Van Ryk, and Furlan served as exclamation points in a dominant first set for UBC.
Picking up 14 kills to the Huskies' six, the 'Birds were as impressive on defense as they were on the attack. Excellent defensive positioning and ball placement off the serve forced the Huskies into tough spots, as Saskatchewan posted just a 0.038 hitting percentage in the set, and the 'Birds took it 25-15.
The second frame saw a different beginning, as the Thunderbirds found themselves in a 4-2 hole after the Huskies came out with some jump.
Then, everything came together for the 'Birds in one of their most dominant stretches of the season. Behind that dominant serving stretch from Price, UBC reeled off nine total aces, en route to a set-ending 24-3 run, a sequence that also saw Gabrielle Attieh and Danae Shepherd drop dimes. Behind their blistering service game, the 'Birds again held the Huskies to a meagre hitting percentage, this time -0.071, as Saskatchewan turned 14 swings into just four kills and five errors.
The Huskies showed their moxie again in the opening stages of the third set, as kills from Taylor Annala and Emily Koshinsky, combined with some disjointed offensive play from the 'Birds, saw saw Saskatchewan hold a lead as big as seven point, taking a 16-9 advantage into the technical timeout.
The Huskies had no trouble holding on to that lead, eventually claiming the set as 25-16 as an ace from Mackenzie Pek capped off a 6-0 Saskatchewan run to end the set. The Huskies doubled their kill count to that point in the contest with their 10 in the third frame, while two aces from each of Carissa Noble and Pek.
The 'Birds put any thoughts of a comeback to bed quickly in the fourth stanza, bolting to a 6-0 lead right off the bat. A flurry of kills from Hanly helped the 'Birds double their advantage, as the hosts broke open the set 16-4 at the advantage. Eventually settling into a 24-13 lead, the 'Birds took the game as a swing from Huskies fourth-year Ruby Stefan found the net.
The 'Birds and Huskies will square off once more in the regular season finale, with the opening whistle set for 5:00 p.m. PT at War Memorial Gym.