LANGLEY, B.C. – The Trinity Western men’s volleyball team won their fourth Canada West championship in the last five years, as the Spartans beat visiting Alberta 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-22) in Saturday’s conference final at the Langley Events Centre. The victory capped a championship night for TWU, as the Spartans women’s volleyball team also captured the conference crown with a win over Alberta.
In front of a raucous Spartans home crowd of nearly 1500, TWU, who was playing in the Canada West final for the ninth year in a row, won their fifth conference title in the last decade and sixth in program history.
TWU will now advance to the U SPORTS Championship for the 11th year in a row as they will travel to the University of Manitoba (Mar. 13-15), where the Spartans will be seeking their second straight national title and fourth in the last five years. The Bears will join TWU at the national tournament as one of two earned Canada West berths. The host Manitoba Bisons will round out the Canada West contingent at the U SPORTS Championship.
The Spartans Jacob Kern (Edmonton) finished the night with a team-high 10 kills, while Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) hit .438 with eight kills and just one attacking error to go with four aces and three blocks. Elser also had eight kills. Eshenko finished with a match-high five blocks. Derek Epp (Saskatoon) had a match-high 31 and a team-high five digs.
Braedon Friesen had a match-high 13 kills for Alberta, while Jordan Canham had six kills. Max Elgert had 24 assists. Billy Johnstone had four kills without making a single error and four blocks.
Elgert finished the Canada West playoffs with the third most assists in conference history, collecting 237 over six matches. TWU’s Epp is now just behind Elgert in the record books, sitting fourth after earning 231 assists over six matches.
Elser’s 17 aces in six matches in the Canada West playoffs puts him into a tie with former UBC setter Byron Keturakis for the most aces in a single postseason.
TWU hit .357 as a team, while Alberta hit .244. Alberta had seven blocks, while TWU had 5.5.
“Trinity Western is a really good team and I thought there were stretches where we were right there with them, but at this point – whether you’re good, great or whatever – it’s about closing the deal and putting points away and we weren’t able to do that," said Bears head coach Brock Davidiuk. "We had a lot of opportunities, but we weren’t able to execute at those times. They just executed better than us.”
A 6-0 run early in the first set saw the Spartans take a 6-2 lead and they never trailed the rest of the set. The Bears clawed back, eventually evening set at 14-14, but the visitors were unable to take the lead. The Spartans pulled away as the set progressed and Loeppky earned an ace to give TWU a four-point win. TWU hit .333 as a team, while Alberta hit .179. Loeppky had a team-high four kills, while Friesen had five for Alberta.
The second set was close early on, but a 4-0 run from TWU midway through the set gave the Spartans a 17-11 lead after a Loeppky kill. The Spartans made it 22-15 after a kill from Kern, but Alberta responded and got back within three points after a four-point run of their own. That was as close as the Bears would get, with TWU taking the set by four points after a kill from Epp.
Both teams’ offences improved in the second set, with TWU hitting .500 while the Bears hit .364.
With momentum on the Spartans side and the home crowd in their corner, TWU opened an 11-4 lead in the third set. However, with the game on the line, the Bears battled back and got within two points, closing the gap at 12-10. The Bears hung around, but the Spartans never gave up their lead. Alberta got within one point at 22-21 and then again at 23-22, but a kill from Kern followed by a kill from Elser sealed the win for TWU.