By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University
LANGLEY, B.C. – The No. 2 Trinity Western women's volleyball team rallied from two sets down to beat the No. 1-ranked Calgary Dinos in a thrilling five-setter, winning 3-2 (14-25, 25-23, 29-27, 25-16, 15-11) Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
Trailing by two sets and facing match point in the third set, the Spartans responded with three of the next four points to force a fourth set. Then, it was a 10-1 TWU run midway through the third set that gave the home side momentum and, from there, the Spartans rode that wave to a five-set victory.
With the win, the Spartans remain perfect on the season, improving their record to 11-0 in the regular season and 20-0 overall. The loss was the Dinos first of the season, as they drop to 10-1 and 15-1 overall.
Spartans first-year Savannah Purdy (Victoria) led the way for the home team, earning a career-high 22 kills to go with 12 digs. Hilary Howe (Calgary) added 20 kills for TWU, while setter Brie King (Langley), who was back in the lineup after missing the Spartans last four matches, had 51 assists. Mikaelyn Sych (Airdrie, Alta.) had a match-high eight blocks along with nine kills.
The Dinos were led by the trio of Kate Pexman, who had 17 kills, Kenzie Vaandering, who had 14 kills, and Hannah Tanasichuk, who also had 14 kills. Calgary split their setting duties between Leah Shevkenek (29 assists) and Lexi Peart (21 assists). Kennedy Snape had a match-high 24 digs.
TWU finished the night hitting .179, while Calgary hit .162. Calgary had a 15-11 edge in blocks.
The Dinos got off to an impressive start in the first set, hitting .333 en route to an 11-point win. Riding an 8-0 run midway through the set, which took the visitors to a 19-9 lead, Calgary rolled to the win on the strength of four blocks and just three attacking errors. TWU hit .000 as a team, with 10 kills and 10 errors.
The home side started well in the second set, taking a 14-12 lead only to see the Dinos rally with a 4-0 run that took them into the technical timeout with a two-point edge. From there, Calgary never trailed, holding off the Spartans, who tied the set five times but never grabbed a lead, to earn a two-point win. With the set tied 23-23, back-to-back kills from Pexman sealed the set in favour of Calgary.
Calgary hit .282 in the second set, while TWU improved on its first set effort, hitting .238.
The Spartans looked sharp in the third set and appeared well on their way to forcing a fourth set, holding a 24-17 lead. However, Calgary rallied in a huge way, going on a 7-0 run to even the set 24-24 after a block from Autumn Davidson and Tanasichuk. Calgary had one opportunity at match point, leading 26-25, but TWU's Sych evened the set with a kill. TWU then tallied three of the next four points to take the set after back-to-back blocks.
Calgary took a 10-6 lead in the fourth set, but the Spartans responded with a 10-1 run that took TWU into the technical timeout with a five-point lead. From there, the Dinos never found their footing as the home side ran away with a 25-16 win to force a fifth set. TWU hit .353 as a team, while holding Calgary to just .100.
TWU raced out to a 6-2 lead in the fifth set and held an advantage throughout the rest of the set. Calgary got within a point, at 9-8, but the Spartans pushed back, with Purdy eventually finishing it off with a match-winning kill.
Ryan Hofer – TWU Coach
"I feel like we weren't ourselves in the first two sets. We needed to play with the same emotion and the same passion and the same mindset that we have all year. When we finally started to play Spartan ball, with fire and resolve, better things happened.
"Savannah had an outstanding night. She took a lot of volume for us. Hilary was solid for us and was better and better throughout the match. And I thought Sych, who started a bit slow, was really a key player for us in the end."
On the end of the third set
"In that third set, we just needed to make sure we didn't panic. They were earning those points at the end and we didn't execute a few plays that we should have, but we stuck around and we didn't give up and that's what I like about this team."
• The win for TWU snaps a four-match losing skid, including preseason and regular season, against the Dinos.
• The last time TWU was involved in a match between the top two teams in the country was in 2015-16, when the No. 2 Spartans hosted No. 1 Alberta. The teams split the weekend series. That year, the Spartans went on to win their second straight Canada West championship and a U SPORTS silver medal.
• TWU was coming off a bye weekend, while Calgary made short work of Manitoba, sweeping the weekend series in just six sets.
• TWU's last win against the Dinos was Nov. 4, 2016 (3-0).
The Spartans and Dinos will play the rematch Saturday at 5:30 p.m. (PT) at the LEC.
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 haAve won 11 U SPORTS team championships and 25 Canada West team championships.