By Mark Janzen, Trnity Western University
LANGLEY, B.C. – The No. 2-ranked Trinity Western men's volleyball team earned a 3-0 (25-18, 25-17, 25-18) win over visiting Thompson Rivers Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
Hitting .491 as a team, the Spartans (10-3) took the victory in convincing fashion, pulling away late in all three sets.
Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) led the way with 10 kills while hitting .562 and adding three aces and three blocks. Jackson Howe (Calgary) was impressive on the right side, earning nine kills and four blocks.
The WolfPack's Tim Dobbert, who is averaging 4.58 kills per set (2nd in Canada West), was held to just seven kills over the three set match.
TRU (7-6) finished the night with 17 kills as a team and hit .000.
The Spartans out-blocked TRU 11-2.
Coming off a bye and having last played two weeks ago in Brandon, when TWU lost back-to-back three-setters against the Bobcats, the Spartans side rolled to one of its most convincing wins of the year.
In a hard-serving contest between the top two teams in the conference in aces per set – TRU averages 2.27/set and TWU averages 1.81/set – the teams combined for a whopping 41 missed serves (TWU had 23 and TRU had 18), with the WolfPack earning six aces and the Spartans nabbing five aces.
The first set saw TWU earn a seven-point win thanks to a .471 hitting percentage compared to the WolfPack's -.100. The Spartans also had a 5-1 edge in blocks, while the teams combined for 16 serving errors (TWU had nine and TRU had seven). Jacob Kern (Edmonton) and Aaron Boettcher (Surrey, B.C.) had three kills each while TRU had four players with a single kill each.
The Spartans continued to run an efficient offence in the second set, hitting .440 while out-blocking TRU 3-1. Holding the WolfPack to just eight kills, TWU pulled away midway through the set, taking a 21-16 lead before tallying four of the final five points to win the set. Loeppky had eight kills in the set, while Dobbert had a team-high three for the visitors.
Similar to the second set, the Spartans broke the third set open just at the technical timeout. TWU took a two-point edge into the break and tallied the next two points to open an 18-14 lead. Hitting .600 in the set, TWU pulled away for a seven-point win.
Ben Josephson - TWU Coach
"Coming into the weekend, you had the top two ace-producing teams in the conference and teams that produce aces also produce misses. That's the risk-reward of being a challenging serving team. We were excited to see the challenge of handling their tough servers and we've been working hard on having tougher serving than we did in the first half. I think you saw the best of both worlds tonight. There were moments where you saw servers dropping bombs and it was hard to do anything and then both teams really had a hard time putting tough serves in over certain stretches. The cool part for me was when the ball was in play, I thought we did a great job and we really did well in the high-ball phase.
"Against a team that serves as tough as TRU does means that we didn't make errors when we were out of system. When we were in system, we were clean, but when we were out of system, we were equally clean. Our spikers made good disciplined shots and I thought our blocking was incredible. Our serving produced bad passes by them, which we stuffed. Their serving produced bad passing by us that we made plays on. That's the difference in the ball game.
"Individually, I thought Jackson had by far the best game of his year on the right side. He was fantastic and that was really fun to see. Eric continued to do what Eric does with a really strong night in a variety of areas, but, to be honest, we had good nights from a lot of guys."
• TWU is now 31-6 all-time against TRU.
• The Spartans travelled to Kamloops in preseason where they split their weekend series with the WolfPack.
• TWU beat the WolfPack in three sets in both of its regular season meetings last season.
• The last time TRU visited the Spartans was Jan. 13-14, 2017 when TWU earned back-to-back 3-0 wins.
• After winning eight straight matches and improving its record to 7-1, the WolfPack enters this weekend have lost four games in a row.
The rematch goes Saturday night with first serve at 7 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 have won 11 U SPORTS team championships and 25 Canada West team championships.