Cougars get first win of the season in Kelowna

Cougars get first win of the season in Kelowna

Grayson B. Leahy, Heat Sports Information

KELOWNA, B.C. – In another long five-set affair, the MRU Cougars earned a weekend split against the UBC Okanagan Heat in Kelowna.

After dropping the first set, the Heat roared back in the second and third with convincing victories and looked to be in a good position to keep the momentum going on the night. The Cougars countered strong in the fourth, though, swinging the momentum well back in their own favour by taking it 25-14 and forcing yet another tie-breaking set.

The Heat were down early in the final set, but managed to string together a run to pull within a point late. It wouldn't be enough, though, as MRU's star hitter, Tyler Schmidt, took control of the Cougars attack in the final points and cemented the win.

The Heat's play on the defensive side of the net was the most noticeably dominant part of their game on Saturday night, as they were able to shut down far more of the Cougars' swings than on Friday night. Devon Cote and Lars Bornemann were steady on the attack as always for the Heat, earning the majority of chances on the night.

First Set: (25-23)

UBC Okanagan jumped out to an early 10-5 lead in the opening frame after scoring seven of eight straight points, three of which came thanks to combined blocks by Caleb Funk and Lars Bornemann. Points were traded from that point until the Heat took a 16-12 advantage into the media time-out.

After the time-out the points-trading continued, as neither team strung together back-to-back points until the Cougars managed it to pull within two, down 19-17, and forced a Heat time-out. That MRU run continued after the time-out, as a Tyler Schmidt kill brought them within one. Back-to-back service errors kept the Heat up just one at 20-19, before the Cougars tied it up at 20, 21, and 22 and eventually took the lead at 23-22 after a number of Heat errors piled up.

A sneaky tip kill brought the Heat even at 23, a Quinn Bromley kill gave the Cougars set point, and a big block by Tanner Greves and Lachlan Polson gave Mount Royal the 1-0 lead in the match.

Second Set: (20-25)

Mount Royal jumped out to a 5-1 lead early on after scoring the first three points of the set, but the Heat stormed back with a five-point run to take a 10-8 lead. Another run, of four points that included back-to-back Bornemann kills and a Russo service ace, put the Heat up 13-11 and forced an MRU time-out. Three straight serving errors after that time-out put the Heat up 14-13 before another big block, this time from Cote and Funk, put the home side up 16-13 at the media break.

Two more service errors followed the break, tailed up by a huge kill from Morgan Nichols that put the Heat up 18-15. A kill in response by Riley Friesen brought the Cougars within two, down 18-16, but Nichols buried another and Joshua Harvey added one to stretch the lead back to three at 20-17. Points were traded after that, and a service ace by Cote forced another Cougars time-out at 23-19.

After that time-out the teams continued trading points, and the Heat locked up the second set win on a kill from Cote, to tie the match up at 1-1.

Third Set: (14-25)

The back-and-forth scoring continued into the third set, as neither team was able to stretch a lead beyond two points until the Heat got back-to-back kills from Harvey and Bornemann to go up 10-7. Serving provided most of the scoring for a spell after a Cougars time-out, as an ace and a pair of errors saw the Heat jump ahead 13-8. Friesen and Bornemann traded kills over a four-point stretch before Russo and Funk combined for another huge block to put the Heat ahead 16-10 at the media break.

Keeping the Cougars from stringing points together, the Heat scored five of the first seven points after the break, jumping out to a 21-12 lead and forcing an MRU time-out after back-to-back kills from Bornemann and Cote and a huge block from Cote and Harvey.

Back-to-back aces by Russo followed another huge Cote kill, and gave the Heat set point up 24-13. Bornemann tallied the final kill of the frame and put the Heat up 2-1 in the match.

Fourth Set: (25-14)

The Cougars seemed determined early on in the fourth, jumping ahead 8-3 on a six-point run after going down 0-2 off the jump. Cote, Bornemann, and Funk responded after a Heat time-out with three kills in four points to pull within three at 9-6.

Scoring five of six heading into the media time-out, the Cougars were up 16-9 at the break. They continued on that roll after the time-out, keeping the Heat's scoring sporadic and stringing together consistently themselves, including a four-point run that gave them set point. Joshua Harvey put away a kill for the Heat to break up that run, but Quinn Bromley put one away himself to force a fifth set.

Fifth Set: (15-12)

The Cougars put a quick run together early in the deciding set, string together four straight points and forcing a Heat time-out after a Bromley ace put them up 5-2. Joshua Harvey put away a huge kill for the Heat after the time-out, followed immediately by another big block by Russo and Harvey to bring the Heat within two at 6-4. A big swing from Schmidt snuck past the Heat block and rolled MRU into the technical time-out ahead 8-5.

An ace from Saly and a Russo swing that flew just past the line put the Cougars ahead 10-5 out of the break, before Heppell broke up the run with a kill of his own for the Heat. Another time-out was called by the home side after back-to-back Cougars kills, from Friesen and Bromley, put them within three of winning the match.

Out of that time-out, a well-placed swing from Heppell earned him another kill and gave serve back to the Heat. Another block for the Heat made it 12-8, but a communication error put the Cougars up five and within a swing of set point. A kill from Cote and a fortuitous mistake by the Cougars at the net made it 13-10, as a Mount Royal time-out was called.
The Heat came back on the court strong at the net, with Nichols and Harvey blocking a big swing from Schmidt, who then put a ball out on his next swing trying to get around the block. Schmidt's next swing found the floor, though, and an awkwardly-placed ball couldn't be gotten to by the Heat as the Cougars tallied their final point to pull off the weekend split.

Key Performers:

UBC Okanagan:

Lars Bornemann and Devon Cote were the head of the Heat attack on Saturday night, putting down 15 kills apiece and hitting .353 and .273 respectively. Joshua Harvey added another eight kills and hit .438, and Jon Russo added seven kills of his own along with a match-high five service aces.

Morgan Nichols put up 41 assists in the match, along with seven digs and two kills. Caleb Funk had a match-high seven blocks, while Eli Risso finished with 12 digs for another match-high.

MRU:

Riley Friesen led all attackers in the match with 16 kills, and hit .433. Just behind him for the Cougars was Tyler Schmidt, who put away 15 kills. Matt Saly rounded out the top three MRU hitters with 10 kills, and had a team-high 10 digs.

Tanner Greves finished with 40 sets and a service ace, and Lachlan Polson had a team-high three blocks.

By the Numbers:

The Saturday night matchup was as close on the stat sheet was it was on the actual court. The Heat had the marginally better night on the attack, finishing just ahead in kills (53-52) and hitting percentage (.285 - .266). The Heat also had the slight edge in digs (43-41), and finished well ahead in blocks (12-3), service aces (8-4), and receiving errors (4-8).

What's Next:

The UBC Okanagan Heat (1-5) will play next on the road, travelling to Edmonton to take on the MacEwan Griffins (0-4) on November 10 & 11.

The Mount Royal University Cougars (1-3) will also play next on those dates, when they host the Regina Cougars (0-6).