By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University
LANGLEY, B.C. – In a rematch of last year's U SPORTS championship final, it was once again UBC getting the better of the No. 2-ranked Spartans, as the T-Birds earned a 3-1 (16-25, 25-19, 25-17, 25-16) win Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
After TWU won the first set in convincing fashion, the T-Birds bounced in the second set, launching an impressive performance that saw UBC cruise to the four-set victory.
Danny Aspenlieder had a team-high 11 kills for UBC, with Coltyn Liu and Matt Neaves adding nine kills each. Liu also had a match-high four aces. Zec Johnson had 36 assists, four blocks and two aces.
TWU's Jacob Kern (Edmonton) led the Spartans with 12 kills, while Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) had seven kills to go with three aces. Aaron Boettcher (Surrey, B.C.) had four blocks, three aces and three kills.
UBC improved its attacking percentage in all four sets, opening with a .238 percentage in the first set before eventually hitting .400 in the fourth set for a .303 hitting percentage on the night. The Spartans finished the night hitting .121.
The Spartans put together a strong opening set, earning 12 kills while hitting .381 as a team and nabbing three aces. The T-Birds, who hit .238, struggled to find a rhythm from the baseline, committing six serving errors without picking up a single ace in the set. With the set tied 6-6, the Spartans went on a 4-0 run to take the lead for good. From there, TWU ran away with a nine-point win.
The T-Birds found their form in the second set, earning 15 kills en route to a six-point win. The visitors took a 10-7 lead and never trailed the rest of the set. With Aspenlieder leading UBC with five kills in the set, the T-Birds had three aces to three service errors, while it was TWU committing six serving errors without an ace in the set.
UBC went ahead 7-4 in the third set only to see TWU respond with four straight points to take an 8-7 lead. Swinging back, the T-Birds tallied five of the next six points to take a 12-9 before extending their advantage to four points at the technical timeout. The T-Birds continued to roll from there, hitting .350 while holding TWU to .087.
The T-Birds raced out to a 7-2 lead in the fourth set and the home side never recovered. TWU climbed back within three points, at 10-7, but UBC quickly extended its lead to 13-8 before opening a six-point edge at the technical timeout. After that, the T-Birds pulled away for a nine-point win while hitting .400 as a team.
Ben Josephson – TWU Head Coach
"I can't explain what happened today. The numbers show that we got beat in every phase of the game. Emotionally, I don't think we handled the pressure they were applying to us appropriately. I don't think we were productive in the way we communicated. We for sure made way too much of mistakes instead of being just a point. That makes it hard to compete when every mistake costs you five points in your mind. That's the way it felt and that's the way it looked. I think UBC played great. They played tough and consistent almost the whole match. We played really well in the first and then we didn't play as well and they applied pressure and we didn't respond well. That's how we got beat in Brandon and that's how we lose games. Physically we're really impressive and we can do really cool things, but a little bit of pressure and our group is inconsistent in responding to it.
"In the second set, they served better and passed better and we served worse. Our points weren't as easy and then we missed our serves in the second and they found their serves in the second set. And things kept going from there."
• The T-Birds beat TWU in three sets in last year's final to win their first national championship in 35 years.
• TWU had an 8-7 edge in aces.
• UBC had a 7-6 advantage in blocks.
• The win was UBC's first of the season on the road, as the T-Birds are now 1-6.
• TWU is now 40-17 all-time against UBC.
• The Spartans will also host a TRAC (Trinity Refugee Awareness Campaign) Night Friday to help raise funds and awareness for the organization.
The rematch is Saturday at 7 p.m. (PT) back 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.