By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University
LANGLEY, B.C. – Trinity Western is moving on to the Canada West championship final after finishing off a series sweep of visiting Alberta with a 3-1 (25-22, 25-18, 24-26, 25-23) win in Game 2 of their semifinal series Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
In the fourth, the Spartans held off a never-say-die Alberta side, with star outside Hilary Howe (Calgary) earning the match and series winning kill.
With the win, TWU will take on the winner of the other semifinal series between Calgary and UBC in next weekend's Canada West title tilt.
Howe finished the night with 18 kills to go with eight digs, while Savannah Purdy (Victoria) and Avery Heppell (Langley) had 11 kills apiece. Heppell also had five aces, while Mikaelyn Sych (Airdrie, Alta.) had four aces. Ashtyn McKenzie (Vernon, B.C.) led TWU in attacking efficiency, hitting .467 with eight kills and just one attacking error.
Erin Corbett had a team-high 17 kills and a match-high 16 digs for Alberta, while Kory White added 12 kills and five aces.
TWU finished the night hitting .250, while Alberta was only slightly better at .252. The Spartans however had 59 kills to Alberta's 46. TWU also had a 14-9 edge in aces, while both teams had eight blocks.
Alberta raced out to a 12-5 lead in the first set and remained up by six points at 15-9. But a Pandas serving error sparked a TWU rally that saw the Spartans go on an 8-2 run to tie the set 17-17. TWU took its first lead of the set at 20-19 before an eventual 3-0 run put the home side ahead 23-20. Then, after back-to-back points from Alberta, the Spartans Heppell responded with a kill and an ace to seal the set.
Howe had five kills in the set, while Corbett responded with five kills herself for the Pandas.
Similar to the first set, Alberta snagged an early lead, going ahead 7-4. Then, with a kill from McKenzie, TWU came to life, going on a 9-1 run to open a 13-8 advantage. The Pandas swung back, getting as close as a single point, at 18-17. But with TWU ahead 19-18, the Spartans buried the visitors with a 6-0 run to end the set.
Howe had another five kills for TWU in the set, while no one had more than two kills for the Pandas. The Spartans hit .433 compared to .150 for Alberta.
TWU started the third set by scoring the first four points, but the Pandas came right back with an 8-1 run to nab an 8-5 lead after back-to-back aces from White. However, once again the Spartans came back and took a 13-12 lead and from there kept on coming. A 19-15 Spartans lead forced Alberta into taking a timeout. But the Pandas weren't done, showing resolve, coming all the way back to win 26-24 after staving off a TWU chance at match point.
Corbett had four kills in the set to lead a Pandas side that hit .345. TWU hit .118.
In the fourth set, an ace from TWU's Sych gave the Spartans an 8-4 lead. As was the case throughout the night, the Pandas responded, getting back into the set, tying it up 15-15 before going ahead 17-16. But, TWU responded with four straight points and the Spartans never trailed the rest of the way, hanging on for the win.
In the final set TWU hit .282 while Alberta hit .273.
Ryan Hofer – TWU Head Coach
"It was a battle out there. There were two teams playing really good ball. Props to Alberta because they really brought good volleyball to the floor. They played well and they're really well prepared. We were tested in all aspects of the game. We needed to play really well to get the win.
"Both teams have really talented servers. Both teams are weathering storms. You'd have a sigh of relief when the other team missed a serve because you know what both teams have the ability to do. The teams made each other play better.
"That crowd was awesome tonight. The energy they brought was incredible. We are at the end of our season and we're playing at a weird time and they gave us what we needed in order to get it done."
• The last time Alberta and TWU met in the playoffs was in last year's Canada West quarter-finals, when the Pandas took the best-of-three series by winning a decisive Game 3.
• TWU and Alberta met earlier this year in the regular season, with the Spartans winning both matches in four sets.
• TWU is 27-37 all-time against Alberta.
• The Spartans are 12-6 all-time against the Pandas in the playoffs, which includes an eight-match winning streak that spanned from Feb. 19, 2009 to Feb. 23, 2018.
The Spartans will play either UBC or Calgary in the Canada West championship match next weekend. If Calgary wins, TWU will travel to play the Dinos. If UBC wins, the Spartans will host the Thunderbirds Mar. 9 at the Langley Events Centre.
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.