VANCOUVER – It was closer than they would have liked, but the No. 2-ranked UBC Thunderbirds (20-3) came away victorious over the Saskatchewan Huskies (9-14) on Friday night at War Memorial Gym, edging out the visitors 3-1 in the opening match of the Canada West's final regular season series.
A dominant final frame for UBC belied a much closer match overall, as the set scores read 29-27, 21-25, 25-21, and 25-13.
The result puts the Huskies' playoff chances in dire jeopardy, as ninth-place Saskatchewan would need to sweep UBC in the season finale tomorrow, while the eighth-place Manitoba Bisons (10-13) would need to fall to the UBC Okanagan Heat (5-18) in straight sets.
McCarthy continued his spectacular form from recent weeks, as the freshman notched a career-high 20 kills on just 29 swings (.552), tacking on an ace and four digs. West and Irvan Brar each picked up 10 kills, with West adding a game-high four aces. Fourth-year Colin Fraser had 14 kills for the visitors, while rookie Dylan Mortensen had 10. C.J. Gavlas recorded a team-best 29 assists.
After being bottled up on offence most of the night, UBC bolted out to an 8-0 run in the fourth frame with a pair of McCarthy and Brar kills leading the way. The 'Birds cruised the rest of the way, getting kills from six different attackers, including rookie Coltyn Liu, six team blocks, and three aces in the final frame.
Though the first two frames saw the 'Birds pick up a split, winning by just two points in a back-and forth opening frame before dropping the second.
A Mortensen kill put the Huskies up 11-6 in the second, forcing a UBC timeout. Saskatchewan did a good job preventing any long T-Birds' runs. Matthew Meyer's kill sent the two teams into the technical timeout with the visitors ahead 16-11. A service ace from Fraser made the score 24-18, and after a short 3-0 UBC run, the Huskies clinched the set on a service error.
The third frame was close early on, with UBC holding just a 16-15 lead at one point. Kills from McCarthy, West, and setter Byron Keturakis were key in creating some separation, as UBC turned a 6-2 stretch into a 22-17 advantage. After a Keturakis kill and ace put the 'Birds at set point, McCarthy drove in the dagger to make it 25-19.
The 'Birds are essentially locked into their second-overall seeding in the Canada West playoff race, but McDonald is still looking to make the most of tomorrow's finale.
UBC and Saskatchewan will get close out their seasons with a final showdown at War Memorial Gym tomorrow, with the opening serve set for 7:30 p.m. (PT).