Evan Daum, Canada West Communications
LANGLEY, B.C. – It's time to make room for another Canada West men's volleyball banner at the Langley Events Centre, as the Trinity Western Spartans are once again conference champions.
TWU earned their third consecutive CW title Saturday night with a 3-1 (25-16, 25-23, 14-25, 26-24) win over the Alberta Golden Bears in the CW Men's Volleyball Championship Game, as a raucous home crowd helped fuel the Spartans to the top of the conference.
Leading the way for the Spartans, just as they have all season, were outside hitter Eric Loeppky and setter Adam Schriemer. Loeppky posted a game-high 19 kills, while Schriemer – the CW Player of the Year – provided 43 of TWU's 47 assists in the win.
The victory marked the Spartans fifth conference title since joining Canada West prior to the 1999-00 season, as TWU put the finishing touches on a conference schedule which saw them top the regular season standings at 22-2, before posting a perfect 5-0 record during the playoffs.
Both TWU and Alberta now shift their attention to the U SPORTS national tournament March 16-18 at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. The Spartans enters the event looking for a third straight national title, while Alberta hopes to return to the top of the national scene for the first time since 2015.
The CW finalists will be joined by the bronze medalist UBC Thunderbirds, who downed the Winnipeg Wesmen Friday night to clinch the third and final berth to nationals.
Despite both the Spartans and Bears having already punched their ticket to the U SPORTS tournament prior to Saturday's game, the CW contest delivered another exciting night between the conference powers, who have now combined to win 12 of the last 14 CW banners.
The first set belonged to TWU, who navigated the set with relative ease, taking the opener 25-16.
Despite Alberta's slow start, the host Spartans got plenty of pushback from the Bears the rest of the way, beginning with the second set, which TWU took 25-23 thanks to Jackson Howe's set-clinching kill.
With their season on the line, the Bears showed their best in the third set. Controlling throughout the do-or-die moment, Alberta used seven of Taryq Sani's team-high 13 kills to extend the game with a 25-14 set win.
But the third proved to be all the Bears could muster on the night, as the Spartans ended things in the fourth set.
The national powers, who entered the night ranked No. 1 and 2 respectively in the U SPORTS top 10, went back and forth throughout the set. With the score 24—23 in favour of Alberta and the possibility of a fifth and deciding set just one point away, TWU head coach Ben Josephson chose the perfect time to use a timeout.
A service error from Sani coming out of the timeout evened the score at 24-24, with an Alberta attack error the next point pushing TWU to within a point of the set and CW banner.
Following another timeout – this time from the Bears – an attack error sealed Alberta's fate, as the Spartans earned the 26-24 set win, and the conference championship.
Both teams head to Hamilton looking keep Canada West's streak of national dominance alive, as the conference has combined to win the last four national banners, with TWU winning the last two (2015-16 and 2016-17) and Alberta the two prior (2013-14 and 2014-15).