In their fourth and final meeting of the season, the Capilano University Blues and Vancouver Island University Mariners again duked it out in a high-powered match that went down to the wire, with VIU coming out on top with a five-set win. The season series ends with two wins apiece for each team.
After storming out of the gate on Friday night, #6-ranked Capilano got behind early in the first frame and had to play catch-up. The Blues called a timeout when down 11-7, but rattled off four-straight points to tie things up at 11. The game then remained within a couple points down to the end, as both sides exchanged lengthy rallies and displayed tough defence. The score sat tied at 22 and remained a one-point game up until 26-25, which is when the Blues persevered during another tough rally and took the point on a perfectly-placed attack from Sameh Khodr.
The second set featured more close play, with Capilano again playing catch-up. The Blues called a timeout at 13-10 and slowly clawed back to go up by one at 21-20, but #2-ranked VIU went on a run at 22-22 and fired an ace to close out a 25-22 decision and even up the match.
Capilano got out to a better start in the third set, and took advantage of some Mariners miscues to open up a 7-2 lead. They pushed the lead to seven and forced a VIU timeout at 15-8, but the home side didn’t relent and used their strong defence to keep pushing and close out the frame 25-16.
The evenly-played match fittingly went to a fifth set when VIU took the fourth 25-21, but not after more exciting plays from the two sides. One of the highlights came at 11-8, when the Capilano bench cleared away chairs to make room for Simon Friesen – who ran well off the court to keep the play alive, eventually leading to a CapU point.
The fifth set proved to be all VIU, as the Mariners jumped out to a 6-2 lead and forced a Blues timeout. CapU couldn’t stem the tide and the lead grew to six, and the high-powered serves of VIU’s Denham O’Reilly then carried the Mariners to a 15-6 win to claim the match.
The Blues struggled at the service line in the game, making 19 errors and recording only four aces; VIU made 18 errors of their own, but tallied nine aces. The Mariners had the edge in blocks, 17 to 10, but Capilano attacked at a higher percentage: 0.217 to 0.122.
Khodr had a game-high 21 kills in the contest to go along with 11 digs, and Justin Yee had 10 kills and 11 digs. Libero Jonathan Lee had a season-high 24 digs, and middle Mattias Wels-Lopez had four blocks.
The win allows Vancouver Island to keep pace with Capilano in the PACWEST standings, as Capilano is now 15-3 with 30 points, while VIU is 13-3 with 26 – having played two fewer contests. Should the teams be tied at the end of the season, the tiebreaker will come down to who won more games (sets) during the season, since CapU and VIU are tied in both matches won and games won during their four games (Capilano won matches by scores of 3-2 and 3-1, and VIU also won their matches 3-2 and 3-1).
The Blues are back at home for two more games in the regular season, as they welcome the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades next weekend. Those contests are at 8:00pm on Thursday, January 25 and Saturday, January 27.