DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
WINNIPEG — Diane Scott admitted the stretch was a gut-wrenching one, but one she hopes inevitably will serve as a critical teaching point for her growing team.
The Wesmen women's volleyball team suffered through a game-changing stretch in the fourth set that turned a potential upset into instead just an upsetting loss as the No. 3-ranked Trinity Western Spartans survived with a 3-1 (19-25, 25-9, 25-18, 25-23) victory in a Canada West conference match Saturday night at the Duckworth Centre.
At one point it looked like the Wesmen were well on their way to forcing a fifth set, taking a 21-10 lead on an Emma Parker kill that had the home team fired up and the visitors trying to find solid footing.
That's when the Spartans struck, tearing off 10 straight points to bring the Wesmen lead down to one. Still, the Wesmen regrouped and won the next two points to stretch their lead to 23-20 before the Spartans put together one more run, winning the match's final five points to stay undefeated at a perfect 8-0.
"We were playing great. It's still a learning curve for the inexperience of this team," Wesmen head coach Diane Scott said. "There were some bad decisions and sheer panic, because all (TWU) did was serve the ball over the net. That's an obstacle that we needed this moment to build off of. For us to dominate that set after being down 2-1 that was a huge positive."
Scott said it came down to "composure and being able to handle the moment," and while it was a blow to not be able to close sets out, she was nevertheless encouraged with giving one of the nation's top teams a couple of jabs of their own.
"This weekend was still very positive in so many ways," Scott said. "We had some big performances. I was happy with Kely (Warmington) coming in and getting some big blocks and T-Bo (Taylor Boughton) making some big plays because we need our middle to give us more because we're depending a whole bunch on our outside hitters and we're not going to go far with that."
Emma Parker recorded her fourth double-double of the season with 12 kills and 14 digs, her fifth match in five this season with double-digit digs. Jessica Andjelic and Boughton both had career-highs for digs with 14 and 11, respectively. Parker and Kalena Schulz both had a team-high three aces.
Ashtyn McKenzie and Savannah Purdy led four players in double-digit kills for the Spartans with 12. Hilary Howe added 11 and Mikaelyn Sych 10.
Four Spartans posted double digits in digs with Emma Gamache notching a match-high 17. Howe had 13, and McKenzie and Olivia Heinen 10 each.
"I just thought the girls did a good job of staying optimistic of what could happen if we just start to do things over and over really, really well," TWU head coach Ryan Hofer said. "(Heinen) went back there and went on a really nice serving run, people went in and contributed, got some kills for us. We fought hard on defence, didn't let the ball hit the floor. It was a lot of fun."
Hofer joked that while he enjoys seeing the comebacks, he'd prefer not to have to witness them.
"The battles are great," he said. "With comebacks like this, though, now that we've done it a couple of times it kind of scares me because I think the girls sometimes think 'Yeah, we can do it.' As a coach, I never want to be in that scenario where we have to fight back like that. I want us to play well from the get-go."
Photo: Kelly Morton/Wesmen Athletics