CW WVB Final Four: Deep field descends on Edmonton

CW WVB Final Four: Deep field descends on Edmonton

Brian Swane, Special to Canada West

EDMONTON - The field is comprised entirely of teams within the top seven of the U SPORTS rankings, three of which are in the top four. It features 22 of the last 23 conference gold medalists, and eight of the last 10 national champs. All of last year’s participants are back.

None of which needs to be pointed out to Ryan Hofer, whose Trinity Western women’s volleyball team will look to defend their title at the Canada West Final Four, Friday and Saturday at the Saville Community Sports Centre in Edmonton.

The Spartans join the host Alberta Pandas, UBC T-Birds, and UBC Okanagan Heat in a four-way-free-for-all to qualify for nationals, and come out on top in a conference that seems to only get exponentially tougher with each passing season.

“You’re playing all these teams who are really well coached and have some great athletes on them, and when they get beat, what happens is they get motivated, they get inspired to do things a little bit better which requires you to do things better, which perpetuates a circle that all of us are just getting better because of it,” Hofer explains. “It just creates some really fun volleyball.

“This Final Four is going to be a grind.”

The newest dominant force to emerge from Canada West women’s volleyball, TWU is trying to become the first team to win three straight Canada West titles in 20 years. After making history by capturing the program’s first gold medals at both Final Four and nationals two years ago, the Spartans successfully repeated as conference champs with a thrilling 3-2 final over UBC, and then reached the gold medal match at nationals, losing to Toronto, in 2016.

“Last year was a stepping stone,” says Hofer. “We were fortunate enough to make it back to that national championship final, and with it, it’s put us in a good position this year based on who we have back. But man, (Canada West) is tough, no one’s going to give it to us. We’re going to have to work for everything because I sense there’s some real hungry teams out there as well.”

That would include the T-Birds and Pandas, who are gunning for their 14th and 11th conference titles, respectively, and the upstart Heat, who look to win their first gold medal after finishing in the runner-up position last year.

Semifinals take place Friday, followed by the medal games on Saturday. The top three teams receive an automatic berth to the U SPORTS Women's Volleyball Championship, hosted by Ryerson in Toronto, March 17 to 19.

A glance at the match-ups:

(5) UBC Okanagan vs. (1) Alberta

After a quarter-final bye last week, the perennial powerhouse Pandas get set to face UBCO, which rallied after dropping its first contest to beat Calgary in three games last week. Alberta finished atop the Canada West standings with an impressive 22-2 record, and was unbeaten in 11 games at home, including a pair of 3-0 triumphs over the Heat last month. UBC was 6-5 on the road. Both of these sides ranked top three in Canada West for kills per set, assists per set and digs per set.

Players to watch include the Heat’s Aidan Lea, a middle that led the conference in hitting percentage (.350) and solo blocks (18 in 24 games), as well as Alberta’s outside hitting sensation Kacey Otto, who ranked first in aces per set (0.59) and second in total service aces (44).

(3) UBC vs. (2) Trinity Western

Something has to give between these provincial rivals, who are each on eight-game win streaks, including 2-0 sweeps in the best-of-three quarter-final round last week, and are ranked next to one another in the U SPORTS Top 10, with UBC at third and TWU sitting fourth.

Spartans outside hitter Sophie Carpentier, ranked second in Canada West in both kills (4.22) and services aces (0.58) per set, while UBC middle Ciara Hanly led the conference with 1.22 blocks per set. Trinity Western prevailed in both of its regular season games against UBC, winning 3-0 in Vancouver and 3-1 at home in November. UBC and TWU ranked first and second in points scored during the 2016-17 Canada West campaign.

Team previews

University of Alberta Pandas

2016-17 CW regular season record: 22-2, 1st

2016-17 record vs. Final Four teams: 2-0 vs. TWU,  2-0 vs. UBC Okanagan, 0-2 vs. UBC

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2012 / 10

Last national championship / total national championships: 2007 / 7


2016-17 CW regular season ranks:

Points per set: 16.8, 3rd

Kills per set: 12.13, 2nd

Hitting percentage: 0.233, 2nd


2016-17 regular season leaders:

Kills: 327 – Meg Casault, Outside Hitter

Digs: 292 – Eryn Orysiuk, Libero

Blocks: 66 – Vanessa Jarman, Middle

Aces: 44 – Kacey Otto, Outside Hitter

Assists: 836 – Mariah Walsh, Setter


Key performer:

Meg Casault

Outside Hitter


Edmonton, Alta. 

In her fifth and final season with the Pandas, outside hitter Meg Casault had arguably the best of her varsity career. The Edmonton product once again led the Pandas in kills, her fourth straight season doing so, while also setting the new Canada West record for career kills. Her stellar season, which also saw her record 28 service aces, 193 digs and 42 total blocks, also earned her the Canada West Player of the Year award, the first time she has done so. Along with fellow all-stars Kacey Otto and Mariah Walsh, the Pandas are set to make some noise this post-season as the top ranked team in Canada West. 


UBC Thunderbirds

2016-17 CW regular season record: 20-4, 3rd

2016-17 record vs. Final Four teams: 0-2 vs. Trinity Western, 2-0 vs. Alberta, 1-1 vs. Calgary

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2014 / 13

Last national championship / total national championships: 2013 / 10


2016-17 CW regular season ranks:

Points per set: 17.3, 2nd

Kills per set: 11.91, 4th

Hitting percentage: .217, 3rd


2016-17 regular season leaders:

Kills: 328 – Danielle Brisebois, Left Side

Digs: 155 – Danielle Brisebois, Left Side

Blocks: 93 – Ciara Hanly, Middle Blocker

Aces: 40 – Alessandra Gentile/ Maggie Li, Setter/Middle Hitter

Assists: 606 – Alessandra Gentile, Setter


Key performer:

Danielle Brisebois

Left Side


Bolton, Ont.

The captain of the Thunderbirds and one of the most well-rounded players in U Sports. Brisebois’ two way game saw her lead Thunderbirds in both kills and digs in 2016-17.



2016-17 CW regular season record: 15-9, 5th

2016-17 record vs. Final Four teams: 0-2 vs. UBC, 0- 2 vs. Alberta, 0-2 vs. Trinity Western

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 0

Last national championship / total national championships: 0


2016-17 CW regular season ranks:

Points per set: 16.3, 4th

Kills per set: 12.03, 3rd

Hitting percentage: .176, 6th


2016-17 regular season leaders:

Kills: 256 – Siobhan Fitzpatrick, Outside hitter

Digs: 261 – Megan Festival, Outside hitter

Blocks: 76 – Erin Drew, Middle

Aces: 43 – Megan Festival, Outside hitter

Assists: 503 – Emily Oxland, Setter


Key performer:

Aidan Lea



Kelowna, BC

Aidan Lea has quietly been a force at the net for the UBC Okanagan women’s volleyball team all season long but Lea delivered when the team was facing elimination putting together a historic night on Saturday with 28.5 points in the pivotal match. For the three game series Lea totaled 43 kills hitting .473 over the weekend, she added 17 blocks and also three service aces.

It was not just a strong weekend for the middle, Lea has been effective all season long. She led the conference in hitting percentage (.350) was first in solo block with 18 and ninth in total blocks with 74. In spite of being 36th in attacks Aidan still cracked the top-20 in kills with 183 on the year – her first in a Heat uniform. 


Trinity Western University Spartans

2016-17 CW regular season record: 21-3, 2nd

2016-17 record vs. Final Four teams: 0-2 vs. Alberta, 2-0 vs. UBC, 2-0 vs. UBCO

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2016 / 2

Last national championship / total national championships: 2015 / 1


2016-17 CW regular season ranks:

Points per set: 17.9, 1st

Kills per set: 12.86, 1st

Hitting percentage: .238, 1st


2016-17 regular season leaders:

Kills: 350 – Sophie Carpentier, Outside 

Digs: 204 – Rachel Flink, Libero 

Blocks: 86 – Katie Devaney, Middle 

Aces: 48 – Sophie Carpentier, Outside 

Assists: 879 – Nikki Cornwall, Setter 


Key performer:

Sophie Carpentier



Ottawa, Ont.

Fifth-year outside Sophie Carpentier had one of the most dominant attacking seasons in both Spartans and Canada West history. Carpentier finished the year averaging 4.22 kills per set, while collecting 350 total kills, and an impressive 48 service aces. Her kill count was the seventh most in conference history, her service aces were second most in conference history and set TWU’s all-time record. Carpentier also finished the year with 422.5 points, which is the fifth best single-season Canada West performance ever, also a TWU record.

Carpentier, who will finish his career as a four-time conference all-star, posted a remarkable .301 hitting percentage as the Spartans high-volume attacker while helping TWU to a program best 21 regular season wins.

The Ottawa native finishes her career top ten in a number of Canada West categories. She finishes third in kills with 1226, fifth in kills per set at 3.617, tied for third in service aces with 156, second in aces/set at 0.460, and second in total points with 1472.5.


WVB Final Four schedule:

Fri. 10 UBC Okanagan * %   Alberta   6:30 PM MST
  CW Final Four - Semis (hosted by ALB)
  UBC * %   Trinity Western   8:00 PM MST
  CW Final Four - Semis (hosted by ALB)
Sat. 11 TBA * %   TBD   5:00 PM MST
  CW Final Four - Bronze (hosted by ALB)
  TBA * %   TBD   6:30 PM MST
  CW Final Four - Gold (hosted by ALB)

Watch every game on Canada West TV.