By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University
LANGLEY, B.C. – The visiting Regina Cougars earned a 3-2 (26-24, 19-25, 25-20, 20-25, 15-13) win over No. 9-ranked Trinity Western Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
Trailing 11-9 in the fifth set, the Cougars went on a 5-1 run to earn a crack at match point, with a 14-12 lead. After TWU got one back, Regina's Haley Wagar tallied the winning kill to give the Cougars an upset victory.
The win puts Regina above the .500 mark, at 9-8, while the Spartans fall to 12-5.
Ashlee Sandiford led the Cougars with 13 kills to go with five aces, while Wagar had 11 kills. Kathleen Ens had a team-high eight blocks for the visitors.
Fifth-year middle Katelyn Devaney (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) led the Spartans with 13 kills, while Hilary Howe (Calgary) added 12 kills. First-year middle Avery Heppell (Langley) had a career-high 13 blocks, equaling TWU's single-match record, which has been registered three times by Devaney. Setter Brie O'Reilly had a career-high 11 blocks to go with 38 assists.
The Spartans collected 22 blocks, which is the second highest total in program history. The Cougars had 14 blocks.
Both teams struggled with their offensive efficiency, with TWU hitting .075 and Regina hitting 0.49.
Despite five blocks from the home side, the first set went the Cougars way, with Regina hitting .125 as a team, compared to the Spartans .049. Regina had five players with at least two kills, but it was a block from Brooklyn Reynolds and Jessica Lerminiaux that sealed the win.
In the second set, the teams battled to 15-15, before the Spartans took over with a 5-0 run that set the table for TWU to even the match. Michaella Crema (Surrey, B.C.) nabbed the set-winning point with her first kill of the night. Howe and Devaney had four kills each to lead TWU in the set.
Similar to the second set, the third set was tight in the early going, with the teams knotted 17-17. However, unlike the second set, it was Regina launching a late-game push with a 3-0 run. TWU closed the gap to one point at 20-19, but the Cougars tallied five of the last six points to win the set. Sandiford paced the visitors with six kills in the set.
The Cougars took a 9-5 lead in the fourth set, but after a TWU timeout, the Spartans went on a 6-1 run to take an 11-10 lead. It was back and forth until the Spartans finally broke free with a 5-0 run that put TWU up 23-17. After a three-point run from the Cougars, the Spartans forced a fifth set with back-to-back points.
With Regina ahead 9-8 in the fifth set, consecutive kills from Crema sparked a 3-0 Spartans run to put TWU up 11-9. However, that's when the Cougars rallied, roaring back to take the win.
TWU Head Coach Ryan Hofer
"Full props to Regina. They came ready to play and performed really well. They put a lot of pressure on us from the base line and it was a pretty good serving battle. In the end, both teams played great defence. It was hard to score points tonight.
"Blocking doesn't win games. They did a good job of slowing us down tonight and we need to raise our efficiency."
• Including playoffs and the regular season, the Spartans had won 10 straight matches against Regina.
• The Spartans all-time best blocking effort was also against Regina Jan. 9, 2015 when they registered 25 blocks.
• TWU's Devaney now has 486 career blocks, which is third all-time in Canada West. She only trails Spartan alum Alicia Perrin (512) and Katy Klomps (490).
• The last time TWU and Regina played was on Oct. 28-29, 2016 in Regina, with TWU taking both matches in three sets.
The Spartans and Cougars play the rematch Saturday at 5 p.m. (PT) at the LEC.