Matt Gutsch - Golden Bears and Pandas media team
EDMONTON – In a battle of two heavyweight teams, the No.4 ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears scored a fourth-round knock-out over the No.1 ranked Trinity Western Spartans, defeating the Langley squad 25-27, 25-19, 26-24 and 25-22 on the scorecard.
NEED to know: Golden Bears setter needed 39 assists to break the Canada West record, but earned 35
Game Star: Ryan Nickifor (UofA) – 13 kills, .207 attack %, 3 aces, 4 digs
Game Star: Ryan Sclater (TWU) – 20 kills, .342 attack %, 8 digs
Stat Line: Golden Bears – 48 kills, 22 errors, 106 attacks, .245%, 44 assists, 9 aces, 14 serve errors, 6 receive errors, 37 digs, 9 total blocks. Spartans – 50 kills, 16 errors, 107 attacks, .318%, 49 assists, 6 aces, 26 serve errors, 9 receive errors, 27 digs, 9 total blocks
The win improves Alberta's record to 13-2 on the season, while the defending Canada West and U SPORTS champion Spartans fall to 15-2. The Golden Bears also bump their conference record against TWU to 6-3, going back to the 2012-13 season, as well as 10-5 in their last 15 conference and playoff games combined.
Alberta and Trinity Western have combined to win eight of the last 10 Canada West titles, including the last three consecutive. The powerhouse programs have also collected the last three national championship banners, with the Bears winning in 2014 and 2015 and the Spartans winning last season.
The Friday night fight was a slugfest, with both teams trading haymakers from the service line where Alberta scored nine aces against 14 errors while the Spartans collected six aces and 26 serve errors. TWU also registered nine serve errors, while Alberta had six. Ryan Nickifor and Alex McMullin each had three aces on the night to lead the Bears, while Blake Scheerhoorn, Eric Loeppky and Aaron Boettcher each scored two each. Boettcher now has the second most aces in U SPORTS play, having spun 31, while the Spartans lead the nation as a team, with a whopping 131 darts from the service line.
Nickifor also finished with 13 kills and four digs to help pace Alberta to the win, while all-Canadian middle Taylor Arnett picked up 11 kills and a 42% attack percentage.
The match high in kills belonged to the explosive Ryan Sclater as the Spartan thundered 20 down onto the Alberta floor. Scheerhoorn managed 12 in the loss as well.
After splitting the opening sets (27-25 TWU and 25-19 Alberta), the Golden Bears found themselves in a 5-1 hole to open the third set. Although they were able to close the gap, they didn't take their first lead of the set until they went up 24-23. The Evergreen and Gold tipped the match in their favour when they won the set 26-24, which put them up 2-1 in the match.
The Golden Bears went on to win the fourth set 25-22 to hand the defending champs just their second loss of the conference season.
The rematch is scheduled to go Saturday, January 28 at the Saville Community Sports Centre with a start time of 6:30 p.m.