WVB: Spartans take opener in battle with Pandas

Scott Stewart - TWU Spartans

LANGLEY, British Columbia – The No. 6 Trinity Western Spartans took game one of the best of three Canada West semi-final series 3-1 over the visiting No. 7 Alberta Pandas Thursday night at the Langley Events Centre in Langley, B.C. TWU outlast Alberta 25-15, 19-25, 25-20, 26-24 to lead the series 1-0.

Third year outside Hilary Howe (Calgary) with 17 kills, 12 digs, eight aces and three blocks and fourth year middle Mikaelyn Sych (Airdrie, Alta.) with 12 kills four blocks and three aces led the Spartans. While Kory White with 16 kills, six digs and five blocks led the Pandas attack. 

TWU rookie Emma Gamache (Abbotsford, B.C.) led the Spartans with 23 digs, while Alberta's Tessa Hill led the Pandas with 22 digs.  

The Spartans had a strong start to the evening. TWU jumped out a quick five point lead, 6-1, thanks to an second year middle Avery Heppel (Langley, B.C.) serving run. The Spartans continued to control the opening set as they expanded their lead to seven points, 16-9, at the technical break. The teams played side-out ball for the remainder of the set, before TWU took the final two points and the opening set 25-15.The Spartans finished the set hitting .400 (15-3-30), while the Pandas struggled on offence hitting .000 (5-5-26). TWU's Sych kept Alberta off balance with three service aces in the opening set. 

The second set was evenly played through the early portion. TWU led 9-8 after a kill from Sych. The teams would side-out over the next few points until a kill by the Pandas Erin Corbett and an ace by Jess Stroud put Alberta up 16-13 at the break. TWU closed the gap to one point, 18-17 after a Sych, Howe block of Alberta's Vanessa Jarman. TWU could not get closer as Alberta closed out the set scoring three different ways. Julia Zonneveld had a kill to make it 23-19, Jess Troud and Julia Zonneveld blocked TWU's Sych to make it 24-19, before Jarman closed out the set, 25-19 with an ace. Alberta's attack improved to .171 (11-5-35), while TWU's dropped to .025 (10-9-40). Hillary Howe had four more kills for the Spartans to give her eight on the game, while Kory White added four to give her six for the Pandas. 

Trinity Western came out strong to start the third set. Hillary Howe serving run took TWU from a one point, lead 4-3, to a 12-3 lead and forced Alberta to use two timeouts to slow the Spartans momentum. Alberta slowly cut into the lead, then with the Pandas trailing 15-7, Alberta's Julia Zonneveld went on a serving run to cut TWU's lead to three points 15-12. Heppel used a wipe off of the block to give the Spartans a 16-12 lead at the break. Alberta's Erin Corbett made it a one point game, 16-15, after she put an attack off of the block. Hillary Howe came on strong at the end of the set with multiple cross court kills to give TWU a 22-18 lead. After an extended rally rookie outside Savannah Purdy (Victoria) gave the Spartans the next point. TWU's Sych would close out the set with a tip down the middle to give the Spartans the set 25-20 and a 2-1 edge in sets. TWU hit .204 (15-4-54), while Alberta hit .180 (12-3-50). Howe had another four kills, while Alberta's Kory White added six to her total to give them both 12 on the evening. 

White got the Pandas off to a good start in the fourth set serving Alberta to a 6-2 lead. With the Pandas leading 10-7, TWU's Purdy went to the end line six times to give TWU a 12-10 lead. The two teams exchanged points and after a block of Alberta's Erin Corbett by Sych and King, TWU led 16-15 at the break. The Spartans expanded the lead to 19-14, before the Pandas took a timeout. The Pandas came out of the timeout and rallied to take a 22-21 lead after a White kill. The two teams went back and forth over the next five points. Then with the score tied 24-24 TWU's Heppell and Howe blocked White to make it 25-24 for the Spartans. Heppell finished the match with an ace to give TWU the 26-24 fourth set win. TWU hit .146 (15-8-48) in the fourth set, while Alberta hit .048 (10-8-42). 

TWU Head Coach Ryan Hofer
On tonight's match:
 "I really liked the way that we came out tonight. We want to play an aggressive style of volleyball: We want to be aggressive at the net we want to be aggressive in how we are attacking the ball and how we are serving and I thought we did that tonight."

On Hilary Howe and the teams serving:
"Hilary did a really nice job tonight. She has been working hard on her serves and I think she just went back there and hit her game serve that she has been working on all year."

"We wanted to make sure that we stayed focused and hit our serves all night long. Everybody has a serve that they have been working on all year and that is what we were able to do tonight." 

On tomorrow's game:
"We need to clean some things up for tomorrow, there are things that we can be more efficient at. I know that it is going to be a battle tomorrow."


  • Howe's eight service aces was two off of the TWU record, held by Lies Verhoeff ('04), which was set Nov. 30 2002 against Winnipeg.
  • The Spartans 17 service aces was one of the TWU record, which was set Nov. 10, 2012 against Thompson Rivers.
  • Trinity Western finished 13 service errors, while Alberta had seven aces to go with two errors.
  • The Spartans had nine blocks, while the Pandas had 11 blocks.
  • TWU finished the night hitting .180 (55-24-172), while Alberta hit .111 (38-21-153).
  • TWU's fourth year setter Brie King (O'Reilly) finished with 44 set assists, while Alberta's Mariah Walsh finished with 32 assists. 

The Spartans and Pandas will match up tomorrow night in game two of the best of three series. Start time is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. (PT) at the Langley Events Centre. The game can be seen live on Canadawest.tv.