WVB: Spartans win Game 1 in five-set thriller

WVB: Spartans win Game 1 in five-set thriller

By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University

LANGLEY, B.C. – The Trinity Western women's volleyball team held on to win Game 1 of the Canada West Quarter-Finals in dramatic fashion, as the Spartans earned a 3-2 (26-24, 25-12, 13-25, 25-20, 15-10) win over Mount Royal Thursday at the Langley Events Centre.

After TWU won the first two sets, the Cougars rallied, winning the third and fourth sets decisively to force the match to go the distance.

In the fifth set, the Spartans raced out to an 8-2 lead before hanging on to take the set and the match. Seemingly a microcosm of the match, the fifth set saw MRU battle back to get within two points on several occasions, but the home side avoided the upset with a five-point win in the final set.

The teams will meet again in Game 2 of the best-of-three quarter-final series Friday at 6 p.m. (PT) at the Langley Events Centre.

Hilary Howe (Calgary) led the Spartans with 15 kills, while Mikaelyn Sych (Airdire, Alta.) had 12 kills and a match-high seven blocks.

Spartans setter Brie King (Langley) had another impressive night, with 41 assists, six aces, six blocks, nine digs and two kills.

MRU's Chantel Park and Cassidy Kitchen had 15 kills each, while setter Quinn Pelland had 56 assists.

The Spartans finished the night hitting .171 while collecting 12 blocks. MRU hit .154 and had six blocks. Both sides had 10 aces each.

It was all MRU early in the first set, with the visitors taking a 17-10 lead after a huge block by Park and Nicky Zalasky. However, the Spartans roared back, going on a 9-2 run to even the set 19-19. The teams traded points until 24-24, with TWU staving off an MRU chance at set point, before a pair of Cougars attacking errors sealed the win in the Spartans favour.

Howe and Savannah Purdy (Victoria) led the attack for TWU, with five and four kills, respectively. Sych was in on all four Spartans blocks in the set. Park had six kills to lead MRU.

The second set saw the Spartans offence come to life, hitting .474 as a team and committing just one attacking error en route to a 13-point win. King had four aces in the set, while Sych and Howe had three kills each to lead TWU's attack.

MRU was held to just nine kills and a .000 attacking percentage, with Haley Roe leading the Cougars with three kills.

The third set was an entirely different story, with MRU hitting .364 while holding the Spartans to .031. The Cougars opened an 8-3 lead after a Dholi Thokbuom ace before running away with the set. Park had another four kills in the set, with her team earning 14 kills while committing just two errors.

The Spartans swung back in the fourth set, taking a 12-5 lead after a kill from Avery Heppell (Langley). However, the Cougars responded with Anna Carlson at the service line, going on a 6-0 run to get within a point, at 12-11. MRU eventually tied the set 14-14, but TWU managed to hold a one-point lead at the technical timeout. Out of the break, MRU surged ahead and took the lead for good, winning the set by five points. Kitchen had six kills for MRU, while Thokbuom had four.

TWU's Heppell and Sych had three kills apiece in the set.

TWU took a quick lead in the fifth set, going ahead 8-2, largely with King at the service line. MRU crawled back into the set and closed within two points several times. A setters dump from King made it 13-10 for the Spartans and that all but buried the visitors, with two more points for the Spartans ending match.

• King's six aces marked a career high, passing her previous high of five, which she set last weekend against Manitoba (Feb. 16)
• The Spartans are now 17-0 all-time against MRU since the Cougars joined Canada West in 2012-13.
• TWU won both games against MRU in the regular season, beating the Cougars in Calgary in early February (3-1 and 3-0)
• TWU and MRU have met in the playoffs once before, with the Spartans winning the Canada West best-of-three quarter-final series in two games, beating the Cougars 3-0 and 3-1.
• TWU has hosted a Canada West quarter-final series in 13 of the last 14 seasons. Last year was the first time in 12 years they didn't host a quarter-final series.

Ryan Hofer – TWU Head Coach
"Mount Royal is a good side and we had to settle into our serve receive and help Brie out by getting the ball up so she could distribute the ball to a variety of options. It felt like a bit of a war out there tonight. We would go on pushes and they would push back. No one was giving up. There were two sets that were lopsided but other than that, I thought it was a really good battle out there.

"In that fifth set, we needed to make sure we were connected as a group and we needed to make sure we executed well, did our jobs and made good plays. We didn't need to be perfect, but we needed to be consistent and make one good play after another."

The Spartans and Cougars play Game 2 Friday at 6 p.m. (PT) at the LEC. Game 3 (if necessary) is Saturday.

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.