By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University
LANGLEY, B.C. – The No. 2-ranked Trinity Western men's volleyball team earned a 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 25-19) win over visiting UBC Saturday at the Langley Events Centre.
Bouncing back from a loss to the Thunderbirds on Friday, the Spartans came out a determined group, outplaying UBC in every statistical facet of the game on route to a tidy three-set win.
Hitting .306 as a team, the Spartans (12-4) rolled to a convincing win thanks to a 6-1 edge in aces, a 24-11 advantage in digs and a 7-5 difference in blocks. UBC (7-11) finished the night hitting .115.
Jacob Kern (Edmonton) led TWU with 10 kills, while Pearson Eshenko (Banff, Alta.) had nine kills and two blocks out of the middle. Jackson Howe (Calgary) had eight kills from the right side, while first-year Brodie Hofer (Langley), who started in place of Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.), had seven kills, two aces and a match-high seven digs. TWU setter Derek Epp (Saskatoon) had 30 assists.
UBC's Matt Neaves led the T-Birds with nine kills and two blocks, while Coltyn Liu had seven kills and two blocks.
With the first set tied 9-9, the Spartans went on a 5-0 run to take control of the set. Hitting .435 as a team and with Eshenko and Kern earning five kills each, the Spartans rolled to an eight-point win. Neaves responded with four kills for UBC, but only two other T-Birds earned a kill in the set.
Similar to the first set, the Spartans went on a 5-0 mid-set run to take a 14-10 lead. However, this time, UBC responded with a 7-2 run to grab a 17-16 advantage. But TWU, who finished the set hitting .348 to UBC's .147, went ahead 20-19 and held a lead the rest of the set.
TWU's Howe had a team-high four kills for TWU in the set. Danny Aspenlieder had five kills, while Liu had four kills for UBC.
The third set was close throughout with neither side able to separate and the teams remaining tied at 18-18. But that's when the Spartans took over. TWU finished the set and the match on an 8-1, capped by four straight points to end the night in the Spartans favour. Kern and Hofer had three kills each in the final set to lead TWU.
Ben Josephson – TWU Head Coach
"We served in and passed off the net. Last night, we served out and passed really low. Imagine if they played like they did last night and we played like we did tonight – it would have been a really fun volleyball game. Our service pressure broke their receivers and their service pressure broke our receivers last night. They didn't play nearly as well as they did last night. I'm happy we won, but I wanted to play against the same team we played last night because I wanted to see us take on that challenge. Tonight, we just played well and they didn't rise to the challenge. At this time of year, we have to get pushed and figure out how to compete and be tough and I don't think we got tougher or better tonight. I think we just played good volleyball.
"This season, we blow out people or we get blown out. We're either dominating the game or getting crushed. When we play well, we're really dangerous. So, we got a win in the column and now we get to play the team we're fighting for second place with. We control our own destiny if we want to host the first two rounds."
• TWU is now 41-17 all-time against UBC.
• The win sees the Spartans knock off the T-Birds for the first time since UBC beat TWU in three sets in last year's final to win their first national championship in 35 years.
• After winning their on the road for the first time this year Friday, UBC dropped to 1-7 away from War Memorial Gym.
• Saturday night was the Spartans Bell Let's Talk night, as student-athletes continue to take a leadership role in generating conversations about mental health.
The Spartans are on the road next weekend when they travel to play Mount Royal. UBC is back at home next weekend with Winnipeg coming to Vancouver for a two-match series Feb. 8-9.
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.