Matt Packwood, Brandon University Athletics
BRANDON, Man. – The No. 1 Brandon Bobcats capped a remarkable season with the program's second Canada West conference title and first on home court in front of a capacity crowd, beating the defending No. 2 Trinity Western Spartans 3-2 (25-23, 18-25, 25-21, 22-25, 15-12) on Friday night.
The Bobcats and Spartans lived up to the hype and provided a match for the ages in front of 1,800 fans that were lively from the first serve.
The energy in the Brandon University Healthy Living Centre was electric and both coaches noted how it played a role in the match.
"That was a pretty special night. Being able to host that match here in our home gym for the first time and to have the fan support that we had, that's a once in a lifetime experience. I'm just real proud of my guys," said Bobcats coach Grant Wilson.
"Brandon was just a couple points better than us and maybe that was the crowd," said Spartans coach Ben Josephson.
"Incredible support by the Bobcat Nation tonight and the fans were awesome. They were classy, they were excited, I mean that's what university sport is supposed to be about. They supported their team and their team fed off it and they ended up getting the victory."
The two hour and nine minute match had the feel of a championship fight from the first touch.
Trinity Western had the Bobcats under pressure with their serve but Bandon on had an answer on serve receive late in the set, playing dynamic defence which set up a .320 attack efficiency despite registering less kills that the Spartans.
Brandon fell to an early 7-1 deficit in the second and couldn't find an answer as Trinity hit .407 in the frame and put up 17 kills to the Bobcats' .000 clip and just six kills.
The two teams traded the third and fourth sets making a fifth set for the ages.
Neither team backed down as the two teams were locked up 11-11 until Brandon ended the match on a 4-1 run.
Brandon was led by hometown fourth-year outside Seth Friesen's 16 kills while conference Rookie of the Year Robin Baghdady finished with 15 kills and Canada West Player of the Year Elliott Viles had 13 kills.
Playing in their final match at home, fifth-year co-captains Brady Nault and James Weir had nights to remember as Nault had a match-high 11 digs and Weir had a match-high five blocks.
Steinbach, Man. product and Spartans' first-team all-star Eric Loeppky looked comfortable playing in his home province as he led all scorers with 24 kills.
Loeppky was one of three Spartans to finish in double-figure kills, as Jacob Kern finished with 18 and Jackson Howe had 11 on just 14 swings.
Derek Epp finished with a match-high 59 assists while libero and Manitoban Carter Bergen had seven digs in what will be his final match in his home province.
The two teams switch focuses as both begin preparations to head to the U SPORTS national championship tournament next weekend. Université Laval hosts nationals March 15-17 in Quebec City.
Photo courtesy Milana Paddock