Ones to watch: Thunderbirds' volleyball

As we enter into a new season for volleyball on campus, expectations remain high for both rosters though their are several new faces on the court.

The Thunderbird women's team kick off their regular season this Friday at 6 p.m. at War Memorial Gym against the University of Alberta Pandas. The men's side will follow suit, opening their season at 7:30 p.m. at War against Alberta, too.

Here are some names to note for both teams going into their seasons:

Women's volleyball

In the off-season, the team looked to fill the setter position, as last year’s captain Alessandra Gentile graduated after a tremendous season as the T-Birds set-up extraordinaire. A total of eight fresh faces are looking to make a splash in the starting lineup. Here are a few ’Birds to look out for in 2018/19:

Olivia Furlan (Setter/outside hitter, #2)

The third-year starter who played mainly as a right-side hitter last year, but is naturally a setter. She possesses a keen eye for the game and will likely be pushed into a more central role this year. Furlan posted the second-most kills for the ‘Birds last season with 224, behind the now-second-year Kiera Van Ryk, who killed an astonishing 352 shots in her rookie campaign. There might be a little hesitation for head coach Doug Reimer to move Furlan out of a position that she had so much success in last season. However, having a veteran playmaker in the middle of the court is an asset Reimer will certainly value.

['auto'] Courtesy Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds

Jess Goodridge (Libero, #15)

The first year libero led Little Flower Academy’s team to a third place finish in the AAA high school provincials last year. She took home MVP at the tournament, no doubt impressing a few university scouts. Her accolades continued to build when she won MVP in the U18 Volleyball Canada Nationals in the spring. The 'Birds replace one strong digger, Sam Patko, with another who they hope can carry a load of the defensive responsibilities for the upcoming campaign. Goodridge will be splitting the libero responsibilities with fellow rookie Kacey Jost.

['auto'] Courtesy Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds

Kayla Oxland (Setter/outside hitter, #16)

Oxland is a rookie playmaker, playing both outside hitter and setter. When asked about the setting position this year coach, Reimer said Oxland is a “talented first-year setter… with lots of experience, one of several players who played on the local thunder volleyball club that won the national championship… and she was the starting setter in the Canada Games team 2 years ago, so she’s got the ability.” Oxland is looking to make a splash this season and help the team to “possibly at some point … use Liv [Furlan] in the front row as an attacker as well," Reimer added. This could be huge for the team, if they have the ability to use Furlan’s offensive prowess at the net again this season.

With a bountiful rookie class coming into the gym, of which some have played a number of games together, the integration of the new players into the roster should be a smoother transition than most.

“Just because we have so many new players in general, our roster right now is pretty fluid,” Reimer said.

We will likely see a lot of changes and more concrete decisions put in place as the season progresses.

['auto'] Courtesy Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds

Men's volleyball

The Thunderbirds are coming off their best season in, well, a long time — 35 years, to be exact. With a national title win, many of UBC's 2017/18 roster hung up their blue and gold jersey on a high, while others are left to try to live up to that legacy.

Who should you be looking out for on the roster this year? Here are three players, to name a few:

Micheal Dowhaniuk (Outside hitter, #13)

Micheal Dowhaniuk is one of several new names to the court for UBC this year. The 6’4’’ outside hitter just started his first year as a Thunderbird in August. Prior to varsity, Dowhaniuk helped the South Surrey Seaside Volleyball Club win the U18 Volleyball BC Provincial Championship in April and earned himself tournament MVP. He proved his talent once again in the U21 men’s championship this summer, when he helped claim the bronze medal alongside his new UBC teammate Coltyn Liu.

['auto'] Courtesy Wilson Wong/UBC Thunderbirds

Coltyn Liu (Outside hitter, #4)

New teammates, new year, new responsibility. Returning left side Coltyn Liu is likely to take on a larger role this year as an outside hitter. Having made the junior national team in the summer, Liu helped Team Canada take down the US in four sets in the bronze medal game. Last year, he was head coach Kerry MacDonald's secret weapon, coming off the bench on several occasions to switch up the play for UBC. This season, with hitter Fynn McCarthy stepping out of the picture with a move to pro team Montpellier Volley in France, Liu’s presence will be essential to the attack line.

Ben Hooker (Setter, #6)

With the graduation of one of the best setters in the country, Byron Keturakis, the Thunderbirds are desperately in need of a new setter to take over that role. Their answer: Ben Hooker, a second-year transfer from the University of Western Ontario. Hooker was training with both McCarthy as well as his predecessor Keturakis in the summer as a member of the U Sports all-rookie team. Hooker also played in Volleyball Canada's National Excellence Program.