By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University
LANGLEY, B.C. – Trinity Western men's volleyball team took Game 1 of the Canada West Quarter-Finals, beating UBC 3-0 (25-14, 27-25, 25-22) Thursday at the Langley Events Centre.
In a rematch of last year's national championship final, the Spartans got the best of the T-Birds in the opener of the best-of-three series, with Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) leading the way with 12 kills, while middle Jackson Howe (Calgary) continued his torrid clip, earning an errorless 10 kills.
After TWU won the first set in lopsided fashion, the T-Birds found their rhythm, forcing tight second and third sets, but it was the Spartans edging the visitors in both sets. The Spartans finished the night hitting .308, while UBC hit .192.
Game 2 is Friday at 8 p.m. (PT), with TWU having the chance to advance to the Canada West semifinals with a win.
UBC's Matt Neaves had a team-high 12 kills, while Jordan Deshane had seven kills.
The T-Birds had a 6-3 edge in blocks, but it was TWU with a 6-3 advantage in aces. UBC committed 13 serving errors to TWU's nine.
The Spartans came out swinging in the first set and were nearly unstoppable, as they hit .750 as a team, including 13 kills and just one error on 16 attacks en route to a 11-point win. Loeppky had a team-high six kills in the set, while UBC was held to eight kills as a team and hit -.080.
The T-Birds came to life midway through the second set. Trailing 15-12, UBC went on a 7-0 run that pushed the T-Birds lead to four points, at 19-15. The Spartans climbed back into the set, tying it up 21-21 only to see UBC push back and get a shot at set point, at 24-23. But, the home side rallied again and eventually took the set after a Brodie Hofer (Langley) kill, at 27-25.
The third set was tight throughout, with a kill from Howe giving TWU a one-point lead at the technical timeout. After the break, the Spartans started to take control. A kill from Loeppky made it 20-17 for the Spartans and while UBC climbed back within a point, at 20-19, TWU held a lead the rest of the way, winning by three points after a kill from Howe.
Ben Josephson – TWU Head Coach
"In the first set, they made a bunch of errors and then after that they didn't. When they didn't make errors, the sets were really competitive. Brodie Hofer made three incredible plays in the second to steal that set. But, it's going to be a long series. They were bad for one set and good for two and we were good enough to win all three.
"We hit inbounds and they hit out. It won't be like that tomorrow. I didn't think we did very many things well. They made it really uncomfortable for us. They stopped a lot of things we were trying to do. They played as well as we did, but they just made more errors."
• Fifth-year Spartan Aaron Boettcher (Surrey, B.C.) had a career-high five aces. His previous best was four against Winnipeg on Oct. 23, 2015.
• Going back to the regular season, the Spartans have won eight straight matches.
• TWU's last loss came at the hands of UBC, when the Spartans lost in four sets on Jan. 25. TWU bounced back the next night to beat the T-Birds in three sets.
• The T-Birds posted a 9-1 record in the second half of the season, with their only loss coming against the Spartans.
• TWU is the reigning three-time Canada West champions.
• This weekend's series is the first time TWU and UBC have ever played each other in the Canada West quarter-finals.
• The last time both teams met in playoffs was last years national final, when UBC capture gold in a three-set victory at McMaster University.
• TWU is 42-17 all-time against UBC, including both the regular season and playoffs.
• The last time UBC and TWU met in a Canada West playoff game, the Spartans beat the T-Birds in a five-set semifinal Feb. 22, 2013.
• TWU is 4-1 all-time against UBC in the playoffs.
The Spartans and T-Birds play Game 2 Friday at 8 p.m. (PT) at the LEC. Game 3 (if necessary) is Saturday.
About Spartan Athletics
As official members of U SPORTS, the Spartans currently compete in 10 sports in the Canada West conference, including women's and men's soccer, volleyball, basketball, cross country and track & field. TWU also competes in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) in men's hockey. Since TWU entered U SPORTS in 1999, the Spartans have won 11 U SPORTS team championships and 25 Canada West team championships.