TORONTO - The Western Mustangs women’s volleyball team lost in four sets to the UBC Thunderbirds 20-25; 25-23; 19-25; 20-25 in U Sports quarter-final action this Friday afternoon in Toronto.
“Overall we can be a little bit disappointed with our execution level, we made a few too many unforced errors,” said Mustangs head coach Melissa Bartlett. “I’m proud as always about the way we’ve battled in the playoffs and the character and grit we’ve shown in the last couple of matches.”
The team will be relegated to the consolation rounds, where they will face off against the McMaster Marauders in the consolation semifinal in a rematch of last weekend's Ontario University Athletics gold medal match, which saw the Marauders top the Mustangs in five sets. The winner of the consolation semifinal will advance to fifth place on Sunday, while the loser will be sent home.
“We’re not guaranteed another match after that, we have to beat them,” said Bartlett. “I think we’re excited cause all year long one of our goals as been to be the best in the west division, so it’s kind of neat that we get a match up with a familiar team.”
The Thunderbirds got off to a strong start, going up 12-1 on the Mustangs in the first set. The Mustangs managed to go on a run and cut the Thunderbirds' lead to 16-7 at the technical timeout. The Mustangs dominated the rest of the set, pulling to within two points of the Thunderbirds, before UBC ran away with it, taking the set 25-20.
“We talked a lot on block coming into this, knowing where they were going to hit and how to set up,” said Samantha Patko, who was Player of the Game for the Thunderbirds. “Delaying them, just working on our block a lot the past week coming into this.”
The second set saw UBC jump out to another early lead before the Mustangs managed to tie things up at four. The two teams exchanged points for the rest of the set with no team being able to get the clear advantage. No team was able to gain more than a two point lead, as the Mustangs closed out the set 25-23.
The third set got off to a tight start, with both teams going back and forth with the lead and taking turns tying each other. UBC eventually built some momentum to 15-10 before the Mustangs mounted a comeback to bring Western within one. The Thunderbirds came back from the technical timeout strong, coming out with the lead, where they remained on top, claiming the set 25-19.
“It just speaks so much to the leadership of our senior captains on the court just that 'refuse to lose no matter what the score' mentality,” said Bartlett. “We play tough and our goal is to not get strings of points get to our head, and I think we’ve done such a good job of that.”
With a chance to advance in the national championship on the line, the Mustangs needed a strong fourth set. After earning the first point of the set for the first time all match, the teams went back and forth, with UBC having a narrow 16-12 lead at the technical time out. After exchanging points in the last half of the set, The Thunderbirds went on a point run, and eventually claimed the set 25-20, and the match 3-1.
“I think they should feel by and large very good about how they played,” said Thunderbirds head coach Doug Reimer. “Especially after they got way down in set one, obviously they settled down and played much better in the second."
Both teams played tight defensively, with the Mustangs making 22 errors compared to the Thunderbirds 17. Most of the Thunderbirds' errors came off the serve, but the Mustangs couldn’t capitalize.
Offensively, the Thunderbirds dominated with 20 more kills than the Mustangs, leading them 58-38 in that statistic. The Mustangs hitting percentage was .131, with the Thunderbirds having a .333 hitting percentage.
“Most of our skills were okay; one thing we lacked was consistency in our skills, so we’d have times when we were passing really well but then we’d let up a run in case we shanked a few passes,” said second-year outside hitter and Mustangs Player of the Game Tia Miric. “Sometimes we just weren’t in the right spot, but sometimes we were.”
The Mustangs will be back in action tomorrow as they take on their OUA rivals at noon to see who is the ‘Best in the West.’