Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University
LANGLEY, British Columbia – The No. 1-ranked Trinity Western Spartans rallied from a two-set deficit to beat visiting UBC 3-2 (19-25, 24-26, 25-17, 25-20, 15-7) Saturday afternoon at the Langley Events Centre.
After dropping the first two sets, the Spartans won the third set in convincing fashion to spark an impressive comeback and, with TWU hitting .323 over the final three sets, the Spartans battled back to remain perfect on the season and improve to 8-0.
The Thunderbirds (4-4) offence slowed considerably over the final three sets, hitting -.027 as a team, and with TWU looking to seniors Scott Plocktis (Kelowna, B.C.) and Leigh Goossen (Kelowna) to start the third set, the home side turned the game's tides.
After TWU forced a fifth set, it was all Spartans the rest of the way. With the score tied 4-4, the Spartans went on a 5-1 run the put the fifth set in TWU's hands. Then, with an 11-7 lead, the Spartans tallied the final four points of the night to cap the comeback.
Ryan Sclater (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) had a match-high 20 kills and five blocks while Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, B.C.) had 16 kills for the Spartans. Adam Schriemer (Winnipeg) had 50 assists and 12 digs and Aaron Boettcher (Surrey, B.C.) had seven blocks.
Irvan Brar led UBC with 10 kills while Mat Guidi had seven kills. Byron Keturakis had 30 assists and four blocks to go with six kills.
"It was a great battle and there were a few times that we just looked at each other on the bench and were amazed with the volleyball we were seeing," said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. "They had a great plan and they came out firing. They were awesome and we had no answer for them in the first two sets. Then, slowly we started figuring things out and improving our reception, which gave Adam a chance to run our offence. We made a couple of subs and we got a couple of our seniors out there, with Scotty and Leigh, and they had a huge impact. And when that whole group is out there from last year, there's something special about them and they have a chemistry there and they're really good in playing in tough situations. And that's what they did tonight."
TWU held a 5-4 lead in the first set, but a Spartans serving error evened the set and, while it was a back-and-forth set, UBC never trailed the rest of the way. After hitting .125 in the set, UBC eventually took the opening frame by six points.
The second set had a similar feel, with the teams trading points but the T-Birds largely keeping a small lead throughout. After several tie scores, UBC finally finished the set at 26-24 after collecting 11 kills, which marked the T-Birds most productive set of the night.
With Plocktis and Goossen starting the third set, the game took a turn. With the set tied 11-11, TWU scored 10 of the next 13 points to put the Spartans up 21-14. After hitting .333 as team in the set, a Loeppky ace finished the set in the Spartans favour.
The fourth set was similar to the third as TWU took an early lead and held off the T-Birds for the win. A kill by Sclater finished the set and forced the match to go the distance.
With momentum on their side, TWU went on an early 3-0 run that put the Spartans up 7-4 and the Spartans ran away with it from there. With Loeppky earning three kills in the set, TWU rolled to an eight-point win.
"It never did get smooth offensively for us, but our guys kept battling," Josephson said. "We had a lot of guys stepping up and playing a lot of important points. It was just really cool that we had so many guys contributing and helping us win a really awesome match against the best team we have played all year. I'm really looking forward to all the years of battling against UBC with (coach) Kelly MacDonald at the helm."
TWU is on the road next weekend as they travel to Calgary to play Mount Royal Dec. 2-3. The T-Birds are also on the road next weekend as they play MacEwan Dec. 2-3.
Game Notes: Including last year's playoffs, TWU has won 15 consecutive meaningful games…last year the Spartans and T-Birds split their season-ending weekend series.
No. 1 Spartans rally to complete weekend sweep of T-Birds
Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University