By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University
LANGLEY, B.C. – The No. 1-ranked Trinity Western men's volleyball team held off a rally from No. 7 Winnipeg to earn a 3-2 (27-25, 25-22, 26-28, 21-25, 15-12) win over the Wesmen Saturday at the Langley Events Centre.
With the fifth set tied 8-8, the Spartans tallied back-to-back points to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Then, after TWU went up 14-11, the Spartans finished the night on their second crack at match-point, with Ben Lieuwen (Abbotsford, B.C.) getting the winning kill.
After the Spartans took the first two sets, the Wesmen squeaked out a third-set victory before forcing a fifth set with a well-earned four-point win in the fourth set.
Jacob Kern (Edmonton) led the Spartans offensively with a career-high 21 kills, bettering his previous best of 14, which earned four times this year.
Adam Schriemer guided TWU's offence with 53 assists, equaling his career high. Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) added 17 kills, while libero Carter Bergen (Winnipeg) had a career-high 18 digs. Bergen finished with 35 digs over the weekend.
Daniel Thiessen and Adrian Dyck had 13 kills apiece to lead Winnipeg.
With Kern getting off to a hot start for the second straight night – he collected seven kills and committed just one attacking error in the first set – the Spartans staved off set point and rallied to take the opening set 27-25. With both teams hitting better than .450 (TWU was at .467 and Winnipeg hit .458) it was a back and forth set throughout until TWU scored three points in a row to take the set on a kill from Kern.
In the second set, it was the Spartans Loeppky going off, as he equaled Kern's opener, picking up seven kills to lead TWU to a three-point win. Thiessen had four kills for the Wesmen, but it wasn't enough, with Kern once again burying the set-winning kill. Loeppky tallied the first point of the set and TWU never trailed.
Similar to Friday's game, the Wesmen came to life in the third set, opening a 10-3 lead on a Thiessen kill. Winnipeg took its seven-point edge into the technical timeout, holding a 16-9 lead. The visitors pushed that advantage to 20-13 before TWU battled back. With Maddux Greves (Calgary) and Kaden Gamache (Abbotsford, B.C.) coming off the bench to spark the Spartans, TWU eventually evened the set 24-24. But Winnipeg held on to take the set after a Spartans attacking error.
A close fourth set swung Winnipeg's way with a 5-1 run that forced TWU into a timeout after trailing 13-9. TWU responded with a 5-0 run to put the Spartans up 15-14. But the Wesmen held off the Spartans late, securing a 25-21 win and sending the match to a fifth set.
Winnipeg took a 3-1 lead in the fifth set, but TWU bounced back to take an 8-7 lead at the turn. From there, TWU took a lead and held on down the stretch.
Head Coach Ben Josephson
"We knew this game was going to be really hard based on the way they finished the game last night. And Larry (McKay), in my opinion, is the best coach we have in Canada coaching at the collegiate level and every time we play them, that is reinforced in my mind. The subtle things that they do to apply pressure increases throughout the whole game. Everything you do well, you can't do well when you play Larry's team.
"We got exposed in so many phases in what we have to get better at to beat a great team like that again in the playoffs. We didn't have to lose to have that stuff show up, which is great.
"I thought Kern had an incredible weekend. He has come back from the break and has been really physical. He's learning how to be the killer. Overall, I thought it was Kern's coming out party as a scorer for us."
• Schriemer previously had 53 assists on Mar. 5, 2016 against Saskatchewan in the Canada West Gold Medal Match.
• Bergen's previous career high was Friday's night's 17 digs.
• The Spartans have earned wins in 13 of their last 14 meetings with Winnipeg, including regular season and playoffs.
• The Spartans and Wesmen split their regular season series last year.
The Spartans travel to play Manitoba Jan. 12-13, while Winnipeg returns home to host Manitoba.