By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University
LANGLEY, B.C. – Trinity Western's women's volleyball team knocked off No. 3-ranked Alberta 3-1 (26-24, 20-25, 25-21, 25-17) to earn its fifth straight win Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
After splitting the first two sets, the Spartans (6-3) took over in the third set, snatching momentum and running away with a four-set victory. The loss drops the Pandas to 5-4 on the year.
Hilary Howe (Calgary) once again led TWU's attack with 12 kills to go with three blocks and 12 digs, while Micaylee Pucilowski (Kelowna, B.C.) added nine kills and four blocks. Setter Brie King (Langley) led the Spartans offence, putting up 33 assists while leading TWU to a .240 hitting percentage. She also added four kills, three aces and two blocks.
Alberta's Kory White had a match-high 14 kills, while Shauntelle Hogg had 11 kills without making a single attacking error. Setter Eryn Orysiuk had 35 assists and three kills. Alberta hit .228 as a team.
TWU had an 11-10 edge in aces, but the Pandas committed 19 serving errors to TWU's 11. The Spartans also held Alberta to just two blocks, while earning nine themselves.
The Spartans took the first set in dramatic fashion, rallying from a four-point deficit midway through the set before staving off set-point to eventually win 26-24. Howe had five kills for the Spartans, who were down 14-10 before evening the set 21-21. Trailing 24-23, the Spartans, who hit .379 in the set, scored three straight points to win the set. Hogg had four kills to lead the Pandas, who hit .310.
The second set was back and forth early on, but the Pandas took over with a 6-1 run sandwiched around the technical timeout that put the visitors ahead 21-16. Alberta held on to win by five after a White kill capped the set. White finished with five kills in the set, while the Pandas had a 4-2 edge in aces. Howe had another five kills to lead TWU.
The Spartans opened an 11-6 lead in the third set after an ace from King and TWU held a lead the rest of the set. The Pandas got within a point at 14-13, but that was as close as they would come before the Spartans extended their lead to as many as four points, earning the set with a kill from Avery Heppell (Langley). While Howe was held without a kill in the set, TWU's Pucilowski and Linda Damerau (Furthen, Germany) had three kills apiece. White had five kills in the set for Alberta.
With the Spartans holding just a one-point lead midway through the fourth set, the home side exploded for a 6-1 run that put the set in TWU's hands. The Pandas closed the gap to three points, at 18-15, but TWU responded with a 7-1 run to end the match. A Katelyn Devaney (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) ace sealed the win for TWU.
Head Coach Ryan Hofer
"We knew it was going to be some good volleyball tonight. Alberta is a good team and my team has been learning and growing from the last time we played them and we knew it was going to be a battle. It didn't disappoint. I think we got fortunate in the serving battle. I think they ran into a few serving challenges. On our side, we forced them to play it and had a slight edge there.
"I believe both teams are building and growing. Both teams are on this huge learning curve. It's been fun to watch our girls and the effort they have been putting in for the last month."
• TWU entered Friday's contest riding a four-match winning streak, having earned weekend sweeps of both Brandon and Mount Royal.
• The Pandas were coming off a weekend split with No. 2-ranked UBC.
• The last time TWU hosted the Pandas, in 2015-16, the teams split their weekend series.
• Last year, Alberta won both of their regular season meetings on home court.
• The Spartans and Pandas played each other twice in the preseason, with each team winning once.
The Spartans and Pandas play in a rematch Saturday at 5 p.m. (PT).