Mark Janzen, Trinity Western Univeristy
LANGLEY, B.C. – The No. 1-ranked Trinity Western men's volleyball team will play in the Canada West final for the seventh year in a row, as the Spartans completed a semifinal series sweep of No. 7 Winnipeg with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-15) in Game 2 Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
With the win, the two-time defending Canada West and U SPORTS champions also earned a berth into the national championship tournament for the ninth year in a row.
TWU, who also took Game 1 in three sets, will host the Canada West gold medal match Mar. 10 at 8 p.m. (PT) at the LEC against the winner of the semifinal series between UBC and Alberta. Winnipeg will play in the Canada West bronze medal match against the loser of the same series.
The Spartans had a balanced attack Friday night, with Jesse Elser (Calgary), who hit .700, and Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) each tallying eight kills, while Jacob Kern (Edmonton) had six kills and Jackson Howe (Calgary) had five kills and seven blocks. Loeppky also had seven blocks.
Winnipeg's Adrian Dyck had a team-high six kills, while David Bommersbach had five kills.
TWU had a huge advantage on the block, collecting 13 blocks to Winnipeg's two. The Spartans had five aces to 17 service errors, while Winnipeg had three aces and 12 errors.
The Wesmen were the better side early on in the opening set, taking advantage of a Spartans team struggling from the service line – TWU had eight errors in the first set – to build a 17-13 lead. However, the Spartans responded with a 4-0 run that evened the set, before TWU eventually took off on a 7-1 set-ending run. The Spartans hit .571 as a team, while Winnipeg hit just .050. Loeppky had five kills, while the Wesmen's Dyck had four.
Similar to the first set, it was Winnipeg taking an early lead and extending its advantage to 13-9 midway through the second set. However, TWU responded with a 9-1 run the put the Spartans ahead for good. Hitting .450 as a team, while holding Winnipeg to .000, the Spartans ran away with a seven-point win. The Spartans cut their serving errors in half from the first set, committing just four while earning four aces.
With the Spartans on the verge of moving on in the Canada West playoffs, they opened an 8-2 lead in the third set and never allowed the Wesmen back in it. Collecting six blocks in the set, TWU fittingly ended the night and that series with a block from Howe and Loeppky.
TWU Head Coach Ben Josephson
"In volleyball, there are so many components to the game and sometimes one phase breaks down, but if the other phases hold up, that one phase can't lose you the night. That phase for us was serving. We were an awful serving team for that first set and most of the second set. But we were siding out perfectly and our offence was great. We were great in all the other phases except serving. It was a cool lesson for us. If we just stay with our serving plan, it will come. We're not bad servers. We were just serving bad. Sure enough, we caught a run in the first set with Maddux Greves (Calgary) serving and then in the second set, Eric caught a run and then in the third set, we just served better.
"It's neat for us to see that we can block with teams, we can serve with teams, we can sideout with teams and we can spike with teams and that's what makes a team able to withstand what we are going to face in the coming weeks. I know the elements are there. Now it's going to be a matter of seeing if we can rise to the occasion."
• TWU finished the night hitting .379, while Winnipeg hit -.055.
• The Spartans had a 20-16 edge in digs.
• This was the eighth year in the last 14 seasons, TWU and Winnipeg have met in the playoffs.
• TWU is now 6-1 against Winnipeg in seven best-of-three meetings, with the Spartans only series loss being in 2007-08. The Spartans also beat Wesmen in a single-game Canada West semifinal contest in 2006-07.
• The teams met in last year's quarter-finals, with the Spartans also winning both matches in three sets.
• The Spartans Adam Schriemer (Winnipeg) and Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) were both named Canada West First Team All-Stars, while Jesse Elser (Calgary) and Jackson Howe (Calgary) were named to the All-Rookie Team.
• Winnipeg's Logan Brennan was named a Canada West Second Team All-Star.