UBC Volleyball celebrates Pride Night in a colorful way


Rainbow flags hung throughout War Memorial Gym as mixes of Thunder and DJ Nasri greeted fans at UBC Volleyball’s fifth annual Pride Night on Friday. The event started in 2018 as a partnership between UBC Volleyball and the Vancouver Gay Volleyball Association and has been going strong ever since.

This year’s Pride Night, in support of the non-profit organization Qmunity, was hosted in partnership with UBC’s Pride Collective.

“The Pride Collective is an organization that represents all queer students on campus,” member Isabelle Rowe-Codner explained. Standing at her booth in the foyer along with other group members, she greeted attendees with assorted pronoun buttons and a tri-fold display on how to connect to the organization.

“I think events like this are really helpful for queerness visibility on campus…it is very important that every person on campus is aware that queer exists around them and that queer people feel safe in their lives daily,” she added.

Thunder walks through the War Memorial Gym lobby holding a pride flag.

Thunder walks through the War Memorial Gym lobby holding a pride flag. Miriam Celebiler / The Ubisso

Puffy jackets and toques were the preferred attire for the people who flocked to the building as the night began. The chilly November weather didn’t dampen the creativity, as fans put the Pride theme into their outfits with rainbow flower necklaces, wigs, and even suspenders.

“We used dry-erase markers, face paint, whatever,” said Marley Hearn, a student in the stands.

The crowd cheers after the Thunderbirds win a long rally.

The crowd cheers after the Thunderbirds win a long rally. Miriam Celebiler / The Ubisso

There was no shortage of emotions inside the gym. The stellar play of the women’s volleyball team that shut down the University of Alberta Golden Bears 3-0, and the exciting, hard-fought men’s game that resulted in a 3-1 loss for the T-Birds was only the beginning of the story.

The Thunderbird Marching Band provided energy-boosting tunes, the dance team showed off some moves, and there were plenty of goodies around. Members of the crowd scrambled for T-shirts tossed into the stands, and a select few competed in volleyball service contests during set breaks for a chance to win lululemon gift cards.

Thunder helps an audience member in a serve competition between sets.

Thunder helps an audience member in a serve competition between sets. Miriam Celebiler / The Ubisso

While the event only stood out in terms of its entertainment value, there was a deeper reason behind the attendance of some fans. Kate White, a mum, brought her family along to enjoy the festivities.

“The reason we wanted to come tonight is that we actually brought our daughters … I think it’s nice for them to go out and see what’s going on and be exposed to different things.”

UBC outside hitter Cara Kovacs (No. 11) blocks a Pandas spike.

UBC outside hitter Cara Kovacs (No. 11) blocks a Pandas spike. Miriam Celebiler / The Ubisso

As the crowd cheered on, the women’s volleyball team put on a show, winning set after set. Lucy Borowski impressed with 14 digs and 15 kills in the win, and Elise Petit made her mark with 5 aces and 9 kills. “[The game] it was a lot of fun, big crowd, definitely,” Borowski said.

Danielle Price (left) Emma Doyon (center) and Lucy Borowski (right) after defeating the Pandas 3-0.

Danielle Price (left) Emma Doyon (center) and Lucy Borowski (right) after defeating the Pandas 3-0. Miriam Celebiler / The Ubisso

With the win, the T-Birds improved to 7-0 in the Canada Western season.

Libero Kacey Jost explained what Pride looks like in the context of the volleyball team. “As a team, we wanted to create a space that was super inclusive for everyone and no one. I know sports can be a super intimidating place for anyone at times, but I also think the LGBTQIA2S+ community really needs to see that this is a place for them,” she said.

UBC center Jesse Umoren (#18) jumps for a block.

UBC center Jesse Umoren (#18) jumps for a block. Isabella Falsetti / The abyss

The men’s team, which took the floor after the women, was unsuccessful but had its share of outstanding performances. Michael Dowhaniuk single-handedly scored 20 kills on the night and topped it all off with 6 digs, while Matt Neaves managed 13 kills, 9 digs and 3 aces.

As the evening closed, men’s volleyball coach Mike Hawkins reflected on how sporting events like Pride Night can serve as a vehicle for good. “I think sport, in general, can be a catalyst for positivity or negativity. There are both ends of that spectrum. I think when done right, when pushed in the right direction, sport is the greatest catalyst for love, for positivity, for celebration, for bringing different cultures together, for bringing countries together,” he said.

“Sport brings people together and, when done in a positive way, it really can be a catalyst for change.”

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