By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University
LANGLEY, B.C. – Trailing by two sets, the Manitoba Bisons rallied to knock off No. 5-ranked Trinity Western 3-2 (19-25, 13-25, 26-24, 25-19, 18-16) Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
Manitoba's Laura Findlay, who hails from Delta, B.C., earned the winning kill with an ace, capping an evening in which she had a team-leading 16 kills to go with 17 digs.
In a game that featured a combined 178 digs, the Spartans dropped their third straight match despite hitting .269 as a team compared to Manitoba's .163.
With the win, Manitoba improved to 12-11 on the season, while the loss drops TWU to 18-5 on the year and sees the Spartans fall into a tie with Calgary for first place in Canada West.
TWU had a 13-9 edge in blocks and had 70 kills to the Bisons 58, but Manitoba edged the home side from the service line, finishing with 11 aces to the Spartans four.
Along with Findlay, Manitoba's Kearley Abbott and Jocelyn Koswin had 10 kills apiece. Cassie Bujan had a match-high 25 digs.
Despite the loss, TWU's Brie King (Langley) had 59 assists, which marked the second best single-game setting performance in Spartans history.
Middle Avery Heppell (Langley) had a career-high 20 kills to go with six blocks. Mikaelyn Sych (Airdrie, Alta.) had 14 kills and five blocks, while Hilary Howe (Calgary) had 13 kills and six blocks.
Hitting .421 as a team and committing just one attacking error in the first set, the Spartans rolled to a 25-19 in the opener. After tallying the first two points of the set, TWU held a lead from start to finish. Howe, Heppell and Savannah Purdy (Victoria) had four kills apiece for TWU while Findlay and Abbott had four kills each for the visitors, who hit .178 as a team.
The second set was more of the same, as TWU took a 4-1 lead and pulled away down the stretch opening a 17-7 edge after a 9-1 run. Heppell finished with a team-high four kills in the set as TWU hit .375 while holding Manitoba to .111. The Spartans had a 5-1 edge in blocks through two sets.
Manitoba took a 4-0 lead in the third set and held a lead through the technical timeout, going up by as much as four, at 17-13. However, TWU clawed back and a kill from Purdy helped the Spartans tie the set 18-18. Then a kill from Howe gave the Spartans their first lead of the set, at 20-19. The home side went ahead 23-20 only to see Manitoba rally to tie the set 23-23. With TWU up 24-23, the Bisons, who hit .256 in the set, staved off match point and finished the set on a 3-0 run to force a fourth set.
With TWU committing eight attacking errors in the fourth set, the Bisons took advantage, forcing a fifth set with only nine kills. Manitoba had five blocks in the set and managed to take a 25-19 win despite TWU hitting .150 and the Bisons hitting .114. A 4-0 edge in aces helped swing momentum in favour of the visitors as they held on for the win.
With momentum on their side, the Bisons grabbed a 6-3 lead in the fifth set after a kill from Koswin. TWU chipped away at Manitoba's lead and then went ahead 11-9 after a Bisons attacking error. The Bisons rallied with a 4-0 run to take a 13-11 lead, but three straight TWU points put the home side on match point with a 14-13 edge. TWU had three opportunities at match-point, but the Bisons roared back again, scoring the final three points of the night to cap the rally.
• King's assist total is second only to Nikki Cornwall's 64 assists also against Manitoba on Nov 30, 2013.
• Heppel's previous career high for kills was 15 on Dec. 1, 2018 against Calgary.
• Including the regular season and playoffs, the Spartans are now 20-21 all-time against Manitoba.
• TWU will honour its graduating seniors, including Kristin Anton (Prince George, B.C.), Ashtyn McKenzie (Vernon, B.C.), Micaylee Pucilowski (Kelowna, B.C.) and Alison Quiring (Brandon, Man.), Saturday night in a post-game ceremony.
Ryan Hofer – TWU Head Coach
"One of the joys and challenges of volleyball is that it's not a math test. It's as simple as two plus two equals four. It's not always whoever has the better stats is going to win. That's exactly what tonight's stat sheet represents. We out-statted them in all kinds of categories, but that doesn't always lead to wins. There has to be an emotional component. There has to be a focus component and there has to be a component in which we do things well under pressure. I don't think that we executed those things enough tonight to get the win."
On the difference after the first two sets
"Manitoba did a really good job of cleaning up their game. They made quite a few errors in that second set that put us in a good position. They cleaned up those errors and that really started to change things in the match."
The Spartans and Bisons will play the rematch Saturday at 5 p.m. The match will be the Canada West Game of the Week and will be available for free on www.canadawest.tv.
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 have won 11 U SPORTS team championships and 25 Canada West team championships.