EDMONTON — The Winnipeg Wesmen looked up to the task Thursday, but were left on the losing side of their Canada West post-season opener.
Ashleigh Laube had a career-high seven aces as the Wesmen women's volleyball team dropped a 3-1 (25-22, 21-25, 25-20, 25-17) decision to the UBC Thunderbirds on Day 1 of the three-day round robin.
Winnipeg was led by Emma Parker's 12 kills and 24 digs, but the Wesmen hit just .043 on the day, including -.098 in the first set and -.143 in the fourth.
Still, the Wesmen were very much in the match throughout, fighting off UBC runs with streaks of their own.
In the first set, UBC took an 8-7 advantage and turned it into a 13-8 edge by winning five of the next six points. UBC would push that lead to 18-9 before the Wesmen started chipping away including scoring four straight points off the serve of Laube.
The Wesmen got to within two and were down 21-19 after a solo block from Portia Switzer, but the T-Birds went back-to-back out of a timeout to extend the lead to four.
In the second set, Winnipeg had one of its most impressive stretches, taking a 20-20 tie and turning it into a 24-20 lead with two kills from Parker and one from Selva Planincic aiding the surge.
"The team really fought hard today," head coach Phil Hudson said. "We played great defense and served well, but UBC was relentless in their attacking and being so much bigger than us it was challenging to compete at the net. We just have to regroup and play another really good team tomorrow in Alberta."
Cara Kovacs had 17 kills and 11 digs, and the T-Birds hit .195 for the match in posting a 3-1 (25-22, 21-25, 25-20, 25-17) victory in the first match of the four-team round-robin pool at the Saville Centre.
The Thunderbirds, the pool's 2-seed who finished the conference season 9-7, also got 12 kills from Claire Cossarini.
Taylor Cangemi had 11 digs playing her first career post-season match for Winnipeg. UBC's Jess Goodridge had a team-high 20 digs.
UBC will face Regina in its next match (Friday, 1 p.m. MT) while the Wesmen take on host Alberta (Friday, 6 p.m.).
Alberta and Regina were to play later Thursday night.