U SPORTS Communications
HAMILTON, Ont. – For a fourth consecutive season, the Trinity Western Spartans and McMaster Marauders met in the national championship tournament, and for a fourth straight meeting, the Spartans came out on the winning end of a classic encounter to eliminate the Marauders from title contention.
After dropping the opening set 25-18, the Spartans rebounded to win 25-23, 25-15 and 26-24 to advance to the gold medal game for the fourth straight year.
Trinity Western head coach Ben Josephson was appreciative of the quality of match, and atmosphere, on display at McMaster's Burridge Gym on Saturday.
"When you have all of that talent on one court on a stage this big, a great match is bound to happen," said Josephson. "They're so prepared for us and they play a lot like us: fast, high, great defence, tough serving. So it's like playing our own team in practice.
"When that style happens, it's always going to be a great match. Especially in this gym, because the fans are awesome here."
He gave credit for his team's rocky start to the Marauders, who opened strongly and challenged the Spartans from the service line.
"I don't think we struggled at all tonight," said Josephson. "I think it was fully about how great Mac [sic] was in the first set. They hit .350 and bombed serves against us. We couldn't pass a lick against that.
"What we adjusted was that we messed with the depth of our reception lines. And then we got some better touches.
By comparison, McMaster head coach saw the match swinging as Trinity Western grew accustomed to the pressure his team was putting the Spartans under through a set.
"I thought we applied a tremendous amount of service pressure," said Preston. "(Trinity Western) responded to it in the second set. It was a four-point swing between the two sets.
"I'm not going to read too much into that, because that's just the game at this level. The margins are so small."
The result sees Trinity Western play the winner of the night's second, all-Canada West semifinal between the Alberta Golden Bears and UBC Thunderbirds in the gold medal match Sunday at 4:00 p.m. ET/1:00 p.m. PT.
For McMaster, a bronze medal encounter with the loser of that semifinal awaits Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT.
With Trinity Western struggling to find their range from the service line, and their touch on reception, the Marauders jumped on the two-time defending champions, forcing them to an early timeout at 11-6 in the first set when Peter Khodkevych dusted the quick set off the block and long.
The lead swelled to seven at the technical timeout, and the Burridge Gym crowd was fully energized, when Richards sealed the interior of a double block for 16-9. There was no resurgence to be had for Trinity Western, and after their first two set points went begging, Richards muscled a tip through the block and down for 25-18 as the hosts drew first blood.
Woken from their stuttering start, the Spartans began to find their range in the second set, and the teams found themselves locked in a back-and-forth battle. McMaster held a 15-13 lead, before Trinity Western reeled off three successive points to take the lead at the technical timeout when Marauders setter David Doty was called on a double contact.
Side-out volleyball reigned as the set approached its end, and it was the Spartans who found the opening at 23-all, following a kill from Jesse Elser with one from Pearson Eshenko to level the match at a set apiece.
With momentum firmly in their corner, the Spartans powered into an immediate lead in the third set, winning seven of the first eight points and forcing the Marauders into an early timeout. There was little the hosts could do to stem the tide, and they trailed by eight at the technical timeout after a kill from Jackson Howe.
The trend held as the set sped to a conclusion, with Trinity Western hitting a remarkable .565 as a team en route to a 10-point margin of victory and a 2-1 lead overall.
Side-out volleyball returned with a vengeance in the fourth set, as McMaster raised their level in search of an edge. Schriemer took matters into his own hands to give the Spartans a 16-14 lead at the technical timeout, and Trinity Western continued to lead until a turn at the service line for Koppers, whose ace pulled McMaster ahead 22-20.
McMaster was gifted an opportunity to force a fifth when Elser blew a serve into the net for 24-23, but proved unable to take advantage, and three points later, Trinity Western brought the match to an end when Richards' attack flew well long.
Players of the Game
Trinity Western: Adam Schriemer
McMaster: David Doty