‘Birds Look to Bounce Back During Weekend Showdown With UBCO – University of

VANCOUVER – As the month of January winds down, the UBC Thunderbirds (9-5) continue their lengthy homestand with a pair of weekend games against their provincial foes from UBC Okanagan (8-8).
Last weekend at UBC, the ‘Birds dopped a pair of hard-fought decisions to the league-leading Regina Cougars. On one hand, the coaching staff took some glaring positives away from the weekend, yet the sting of two losses remains front of mind, and the motivation this week at practice has been noticeable.
“On the whole our defence was strong, but our offensive execution, especially late in games, was a factor both nights,” said UBC Thunderbirds head coach Erin McAleenan. “During the first three quarters we played free and followed our game plan. But some empty possessions in the fourth quarter cost us. Credit to Regina – They’re tops in the country for a reason, but now our focus shifts to UBC Okanagan and the task at hand this weekend.”
Defensively, Erin McAleenan’s crew has impressed so far this season, having surrendered the second fewest points (791) in all of Canada West, trailing only the University of Fraser Valley. The team’s commitment to defense has been a major factor in leading to two separate four-game winning streaks which have firmly entrenched the ‘Birds in the Canada West playoff picture.
“Defense has always been a big part of my coaching philosophy,” remarked Erin McAleenan who highlighted Katie Hartman, Cerys Merton, Azalya Forstbauer and Sara Toneguzzi as key defensive ‘stoppers’ this season. “The defensive end is easier to control. Sure there’s the tactical stuff that we’re doing a good job with, but our players have shown the necessary grit, hustle and heart required to succeed defensively.”
Second-year guard Sara Toneguzzi led all ‘Birds with 19 points (her season high) on Saturday against Regina. The Hamilton, ON product is averaging 7.7 points-per-game along with 2.4 assists and has played the third most minutes (348) on the team.

“She’s a coach’s dream,” added McAleenan who was quick to praise Toneguzzi’s growth and leadership. “She’ shown great improvement from the start of last season (2021-2022) to now. It’s never about her. It’s about the team’s success. She’s one of our best at creating shots and opportunities for herself, and leading by example at both ends of the floor.”
The UBC Okanagan Heat are returning back to the Lower Mainland after earning a road split last weekend against Trinity Western University. The Heat have secured the most total rebounds of any team in Canada West and are as scrappy a team as you’ll find in all of Canada West.
“They compete hard. They rebound the ball as good as anybody in Canada West,” concluded Erin McAleenan. “They win a lot of their 50/50 battles and that means that we’re in for a physical weekend. The challenge for us will be: Recognizing the things we did well last weekend and knowing that we are going to need a similar effort against UBCO. Being at home is an advantage for us and I’m excited to see who’s going to step up.”

The home double-header weekend begins Friday at 5:00 pm PT for UBC. The two teams will then meet again Saturday at 4:00 pm. Tickets for both games can be purchased HERE. You can also watch live on Canada West TV.

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