By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western Univeristy
LANGLEY, B.C. – Trinity Western's Jacob Kern (Edmonton) had a team-high 19 kills, while Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) added 12 kills, as the No. 1-ranked Spartans beat Calgary 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-23) Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
Hitting .379 as a team, the Spartans cruised to a three-set win, improving their season record to 8-1. The loss drops Calgary to 3-6 on the year.
Kern finished the night hitting .438 to go with three aces, while Loeppky hit .611. Derek Epp (Saskatoon) had 39 assists.
Calgary's Liam Laidlaw led the Dinos with six kills, while hitting .545 and earning two blocks. Blain Cranston had 16 assists for a Calgary team that hit .086.
TWU was quick out of the gate in the first set, opening a 5-1 lead and never looking back. The Spartans pushed their lead to 16-7 at the technical timeout and, while hitting .370 over the set, cruised to a six-point win. Kern had a team-high five kills in the set, while Mitchell Higgin had three kills for Calgary, who hit .143.
The second set saw TWU pull away early again, using a 4-0 run to take a 12-7 lead and force Calgary into a timeout. Improving their hitting percentage to .379 while holding the Dinos to .000, TWU pulled away down the stretch, winning by 10 points. Kern had seven more kills in the set and was hitting .526 through the first two sets.
Calgary took a 9-5 lead in the third set, after a Liam Kuppe kill. The Spartans crawled back into the set, taking a 17-16 lead before Calgary retook the lead and went ahead 20-18. TWU rallied to tie the game 22-22 and then Kern earned a kill on three of the last four points of the match to send the Spartans to the victory.
Ben Josephson – TWU Coach
"I was really frustrated with our execution. We missed 18 serves. I know we served tough but we've been practicing all semester long to not miss that many serves. There were multiple breakdowns with our system and there were multiple breakdowns with basic understanding of how to play our game. I know we won the game because we have really good players and a couple of our players made some really great plays. But that's overshadowed by misexecution. At the end of the semester, I have a way higher expectation level of this group than that.
"That bye kind of started that Christmas mindset a little too soon. We knew it was going to be a hard game and they made us earn everything. They only missed three serves. We expected they would be that hard to beat. The serving and the misexecution of your systems are the things that were paramount for us all week because of the way our opponent was going to play. The fact we talked about it all week and the fact we believe we're capable of winning something special this year – and then we go out and execute like that is unacceptable at this point in the year. It's frustrating because they're just better than that. They're smarter players. Some people are allowed to have bad games, but they're not allowed to stop thinking."
• This weekend marks only the second time the Spartans have played at home this year. Their home-opening weekend was against Alberta and saw the teams split the series with TWU winning 3-0 before losing 3-2.
• Since TWU lost Game 1 of the Canada West best-of-three quarter-finals against Calgary in 2015-16, the Spartans, who went on to win the series en route to a national title that year, have beat the Dinos six straight times (including regular season and playoffs).
• TWU's only loss this year was a five-setter against No. 5 Alberta (Nov. 3).
The Spartans and Dinos will play the rematch Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (PT) at the LEC.
About Spartan Athletics
As official members of U SPORTS, the Spartans currently compete in 10 sports in the Canada West conference, including women's and men's soccer, volleyball, basketball, cross country and track & field. TWU also competes in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) in men's hockey. Since TWU entered U SPORTS in 1999, the Spartans haAve won 11 U SPORTS team championships and 25 Canada West team championships.