By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western Univeristy
LANGLEY, B.C. – The No. 1-ranked Spartans lost on home court for the first time in more than a calendar year, as No. 2 UBC knocked off the Spartans 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-19) Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
The loss snaps an 18-match home winning streak, dating back to Jan. 7, 2017 when the Spartans dropped a three-set match against Saskatchewan.
Playing in front of a season-high crowd of 1,670, the Spartans were equal to the task through the first two sets, before UBC took over on the strength of the Thunderbirds serving, blocking and middle attack.
With TWU looking to force a fifth set, the Spartans held a 12-9 lead in the fourth set, but the T-Birds responded with a 4-1 run that set up a dominant finish. After TWU held a 16-15 edge at the technical timeout, UBC finished the match scoring 10 of the final 13 points.
Both teams are now 19-2 on the season and sit tied atop the Canada West standings.
With UBC's Fynn McCarthy and Jordan Deshane earning 11 kills each, UBC hit .333 as a team, holding off the Spartans, who hit just .158.
Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) had 10 kills to lead TWU, while Jacob Kern (Edmonton) had nine kills. On senior athlete appreciation night, TWU setter Adam Schriemer (Winnipeg) had 37 assists, while libero Mark Antoniuk (Langley), who got the start, had four digs and three assists.
UBC grabbed a 6-5 lead in the first set and never trailed. The Spartans equalized at 16-16, but UBC, who hit .455 in the set, held off TWU, with Deshane earning the set-winning kill.
The second set saw the tables turn towards the home side, with TWU taking an early lead, 3-2, and never allowing UBC to go ahead. A UBC attack error sealed the win for the Spartans and evened the match.
The T-Birds came right back with a dominant third set, opening a 19-11 lead before cruising to an eight-point win. Hitting .299 as a team, UBC was in full control, with McCarthy picking up kills on two of UBC's last three points to win the set.
The fourth set swung TWU's way early, but then it was UBC pushing back and taking over late.
TWU Head Coach Ben Josephson
On the Match
"The game went pretty much the way we figured it would. It was a battle between their service and our offence and their service won the game. They didn't get a ton of aces, but they slowly started getting further and further away from what we wanted to do offensively because we couldn't pass the ball well enough. I thought both teams were pretty average in high ball because it's hard to score on big and physical teams, but their service game put us in enough trouble and then their sideout game was a lot better than what we were able to match."
On TWU's Senior Athletes
"Tonight was more about Adam and Mark. I thought that was Mark's best game and that's really the story of the night. Mark had started so many matches for us over the last couple of years, so it was pretty easy to give him a shot and he played great.
"And as for Adam, he's already the most decorated Spartan we've ever had. Two nationals and two Canada West championships and he was the MVP of a Final Four and MVP at nationals. Player of the Year is the only thing he's missing and we'll see how that plays out. But what Adam has been able to do with this young crew this year is probably his greatest feat. We're starting all these young bucks and the way he's bringing them up and teaching them how to be a Spartan and how to play at this level has been incredible. As great as he is as a player, it's that leadership component that's been most impressive this year."
• TWU has a 25-1 record over its last 26 games at the LEC, including the regular season and playoffs.
• The last time UBC beat TWU on home court was Feb. 19, 2016, when the T-Birds earned a 3-2 victory.
• Schriemer has now earned 3,335 assists so far in his career as a Spartan. He is just 20 assists behind former Thompson Rivers setter Colin Carson for fifth place in Canada West history.
The Spartans and Thunderbirds play the rematch Saturday at UBC at 6:30 p.m. (PT)