By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University
LANGLEY, B.C. – Trinity Western's No. 2-ranked men's volleyball team will play in the Canada West final for the eighth year in a row, earning its ticket to the championship with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-17, 25-21) win over Thompson Rivers in Game 2 of the semifinal series Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
With the win, the Spartans will have a chance to play for their fourth straight conference title. The victory also saw TWU officially clinch a berth in the U SPORTS championship tournament for the 10th consecutive season.
The Spartans will play the winner of the other semifinal between Mount Royal and Brandon next weekend. If Brandon wins, the Spartans will travel to Brandon to play the championship contest, while TWU would host MRU if the Cougars win.
TWU earned Friday's win with Jacob Kern (Edmonton) leading the way with seven kills and 10 digs to go with four blocks.
With the Spartans only needing 25 kills to earn the win, Jackson Howe (Edmonton) and Brodie Hofer (Langley) had four kills each.
TRU's Tim Dobbert and Sam Taylor Parks had 10 kills each while Tim Edge had a match-high four aces.
Both teams had eight aces each, but TRU had 18 serving errors, while TWU had just nine errors. The Spartans had a 14-4 edge in blocks.
In a back-and-forth first set, both teams put together impressive offensive numbers, with TWU hitting .474 and TRU hitting .304. The Spartans Howe had four kills to lead TWU, while Taylor Parks countered with three for the WolfPack. The teams combined for nine aces in the set, with TRU earning five and the Spartans picking up four.
The second set was an entirely different story, with the TWU blocking game coming to life in a major way. The Spartans took the set by eight points but only needed four kills while hitting .000 thanks to the fact the home side earned eight blocks in the second set alone. With TRU committing seven serving errors to TWU's two, the Spartans were in control throughout much of the set. Taylor Parks had a team-high four kills as TRU hit -.034 with 10 kills and 11 errors on 29 attacks.
The third set was tight throughout with the teams battling to 20-20. A kill from Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) finally launched a late Spartans surge to send TWU to victory. The Spartans took off on a 5-1 run to end the set, the match and the series. A kill from Derek Epp (Saskatoon) put the Spartans on match point and a block from Kern ended the night.
TWU hit .206 over the course of the match while TRU hit .083.
Ben Josephson – TWU Head Coach
"I'm super pumped. In the first set, we took on one of the hardest serving barrages that we've withstood for a long time and we found a way to win. They were shelling us. We bent but we didn't break. In the second set, their offence just decided to blast and our block held up. In the third set, we had four or five mental mistakes that let them back into the game. However, after the technical timeout, we cleaned a lot of things up and made a bunch of really good plays, including a couple of situational stuff blocks. It was a man-up moment.
"That's eight straight finals and more importantly, five straight for this senior class. That's pretty special."
On the Spartans crowd
"It was an incredible crowd. That 300 group is nuts. They were awesome. I thought the first two sets were two of the most energetic and entertaining sets we've played at home. The crowd created a great environment."
• Last year, TWU earned a series sweep over TRU in the CW quarter-finals, with TWU winning both matches in four sets.
• This weekend's series was the fifth time TWU and TRU have met in a Canada West playoff series in the last 11 years.
• TWU is 9-2 all-time in the post-season against the WolfPack, with the Spartans winning the last three series.
• The Spartans are 35-6 all-time against TRU.
• TWU has won 25 straight matches against the WolfPack, including the regular season and playoffs.
TWU will play in the Canada West final next weekend. The Spartans face the winner of the semifinal between Mount Royal and Brandon.
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.