By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University
LANGLEY, B.C. – The No. 1-ranked Spartans came out of the Christmas break in fine form, as they earned a 3-1 (25-17, 25-14, 23-25, 25-21) win over No. 7 Winnipeg Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
Winning their eighth in a row, TWU (12-1) knocked off highly-touted Wesmen side with an impressive four-set victory.
After TWU dropped a tight third set, the Spartans Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) notched three straight kills to start the fourth set and the home side never trailed the rest of the night. After Winnipeg rallied to even the final set 21-21, TWU ended the match with four straight points.
Spartans fifth-year setter Adam Schriemer (Winnipeg) led TWU's offence with 47 assists as he became the first-ever Spartan to surpass 3,000 career assists. He now has 3,014.
Jesse Elser (Calgary) had 16 kills to lead TWU, while Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) and Jacob Kern (Edmonton) had 14 kills apiece. Jackson Howe (Calgary) had a match-high five blocks.
David Bommersbach had a team-high 10 kills, including five in the fourth set alone. Garrett Jones had four blocks to go with six kills.
TWU finished the night hitting .292, while Winnipeg was held to .090. The Wesmen had an 8-7 edge in blocks.
The high-octane Spartans offence got the night started by hitting .632 as a team and holding the Wesmen to just 17 points in the opening set. Kern was perfect offensively with five kills on five attempts to lead TWU. Loeppky also had five kills, while Elser added four. Bommersbach had three kills for Winnipeg, but with TWU tallying four blocks, the home side took the set with an eight-point cushion.
Both teams' offensive efficiency cooled in the second set, but TWU still carried momentum throughout, winning by 11 after hitting .240 as a team. A 6-1 run from the Spartans sent the home team into the technical timeout ahead 16-9. With Elser putting up five kills, TWU marched to the win.
After a Pearson Eshenko (Banff, Alta.) kill, TWU opened an 8-4 lead in the third set, forcing Winnipeg to take an early timeout. The Spartans pushed their lead to 10-5, but the Wesmen rallied, going on a 7-1 run to grab a 12-11 advantage. The visitors extended their lead to 17-13, but a 5-0 TWU run turned the tides back in the home side's favour. From there, it was close down the stretch, until Winnipeg finally ended it after a TWU serving error.
Loeppky earned three straight kills to start the third set and then midway through the frame, a monster block from Howe forced Winnipeg into a timeout with TWU ahead 13-9. Winnipeg eventually clawed back into the match, equalizing at 21-21 with a Bommersbach kill. However a 4-0 Spartans run ended the game.
Head Coach Ben Josephson
"I was really pleased with the first two sets because our execution was really high. I was curious to see how well we would execute after Christmas and I was happy with our level. Part of that was our service game applied a lot of pressure and they were having a hard time putting their tough serves in.
"What I was disappointed with in the third set was the amount of errors we made. We think you can live with seven errors, but we made 12. The hard part was that we made errors in three different phases – the mental phase, the fundamental phase and an aggressive phase. You can get away with errors in one of those pots or maybe even two, but not three and we were making errors for a variety of reasons. However, despite our errors, I was pleased that our level of compete didn't change. At this stage in the season, making mistakes is part of the process but the guys didn't lose their emotion."
• The Spartans have earned wins in 12 of their last 13 meetings with Winnipeg, including regular season and playoffs.
• TWU beat Winnipeg in last year's Canada West Quarter-Finals, winning both matches in three sets.
• The Spartans and Wesmen split their regular season series last year.
• Schriemer is seventh all-time in Canada West in career assists.
• Current TWU assistant coach Ben Ball is second on the Spartans career list, with 2,742 assists.
The Spartans and Wesmen return to the court Saturday with the rematch at 7 p.m. (PT) at the LEC.