WVB: Spartans dethrone defending champs

Larissa Vicente Ferreira; Dinos Communications

CALGARY – For the third time in five years, the Trinity Western University Spartans are champions of Canada West Women's Volleyball.

In a matchup featuring a pair of teams that went 19-5 during the regular season, the Spartans took control of the match early, pulling off a straight-sets win (25-14, 25-18, 25-15) over the Calgary Dinos at the Campus Centre Gymnasium at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).

Brie O'Reilly was named the player of the match for the Spartans, but it was a well-rounded team effort that earned them the conference crown. Canada West rookie of the year Savannah Purdy led Trinity Western with 10 kills, while Avery Heppell finished with seven total blocks.

"I'm very happy, very excited. We expected it to be a battle, this team is very good," said Heppell. "We had a really good game plan coming in and we executed it well."

Due to ongoing bleacher replacement work in the Jack Simpson Gym, the Dinos were forced to play the championship match at nearby SAIT and were unable to adapt to their new confines. The low-hanging roof of the Campus Centre Gymnasium caused problems for both teams on Friday night, but it was the Dinos who seemed to be impacted most in key situations.

"This one hurts for sure. We worked so hard in the regular season to get to this point and to take gold on this match. It sucks to not have the results we were looking for," said Dinos middle Beth Vinnell. "We are hopeful that we have nationals still in our scope, but we are going to take time to mourn this one before we head to that."

Second-year outside hitter Kenzie Vaandering provided seven kills for Calgary, while Vinnell was also impactful with four blocks.

With the support of an energetic crowd at SAIT, the Dinos roared out to an early advantage in the first set. Leading by as many as four, everything seemed to be going well until a pair of ceiling shots resulted in points for the Spartans. That momentum shift put the Dinos on their heels as the Spartans scored 10 consecutive points to take control of the set. Trinity Western won the first with a 25-14 score.

In the second set, the Dinos once again scored early and held a 7-3 lead, fuelled by Vaandering and Autumn Davidson. Like the opening set, a strong scoring run by Trinity Western stunned Calgary as they went from being up by four to quickly down one. Calgary attack errors allowed the Spartans to expand their lead throughout the set. Despite the best efforts of Vaandering, who scored two late kills, the Spartans won the set 25-18.

With Purdy serving, the Spartans had their best start to a set in the third as they scored the first three points. The Dinos kept the match close and even took a three-point lead, but an injury to Hannah Tanasichuk forced her to leave the game in similar fashion to Kate Pexman only a few weeks ago.

Now without their two top outside hitters, Calgary was victimized by the Spartans' attack, who concluded the championship with a 25-15 win in the third set.

Both teams will join UBC and host Alberta as Canada West reps at the U SPORTS national championship March 15-17 at the Saville Community Sports Centre in Edmonton.

"I have so much love for our team and so much belief in us. This wasn't our best showing, but I fully believe we can bounce back and accomplish our goal of winning nationals," said Vinnell.


Photo by David Moll