LANGLEY, B.C. – Trinity Western’s women’s volleyball team captured their second straight Canada West championship, beating visiting Alberta in a thrilling five-setter, winning 3-2 (26-24, 25-23,18-25, 18-25, 15-8) Saturday at the Langley Events Centre.
The Spartans took a 6-0 lead in the fifth set and from there, the home side held off the Pandas and rolled to victory as TWU captured its fourth conference title in the last six years. The victory will send the No. 1-ranked Spartans into the 2020 U SPORTS Championship in Calgary as the top seed in the tournament. Alberta is also off to Calgary for the national championship tournament as they will be one of four teams representing Canada West.
“I think it was two pretty seasoned teams playing each other right now in the playoffs. Both teams have had really good playoff runs and we traded punches today. Unfortunately, they got the best of us this week, but we have lots of positive feelings to carry into next week," said Pandas head coach Laurie Eisler. "I thought it was great to play a really high-level team heading into nationals. Any time you’re in an environment like that, you learn a little bit more about yourself and you get a little bit tougher.”
Hilary Howe (Calgary), who was recently named a Canada West First Team All-Star, led TWU with 17 kills, while Savannah Purdy (Victoria) had 12 kills and Avery Heppell (Langley), who was a Second Team All-Star, had 10 kills to go with four blocks. Mikaelyn Sych (Airdrie, Alta.) had nine kills and a team-high five blocks. Dora Komlodi (Calgary) had a team-high 38 assists.
Alberta’s Kory White, who was named the Canada West Player of the Year this week, had 29 kills while hitting .365 on 63 attempts. Julia Zonneveld had 13 kills, while Vanessa Jarman had 10 kills and a match-high seven blocks. Jenae Eisler had a match-high 21 digs. Setter Elyse Hart had 53 assists.
TWU, who was hosting the Canada West final for the first time in program history, won the first two sets, but the Pandas roared back to send the match to a fifth set with seven-point wins in both the third and fourth sets. However, it was all Spartans in the final set, as TWU, who was buoyed by a boisterous home crowd, took the title with a decisive fifth-set win.
In the fifth set, TWU hit a whopping .667, with an errorless eight kills on 12 attempts.
TWU hit .259 as a team, while Alberta hit .285. The Pandas had a 10-8 edge in blocks, but TWU had a 10-8. The Spartans had 74 digs to Alberta’s 63.
TWU will compete in the national tournament for the ninth time in the last 10 years. TWU has also now won a Canada West medal in nine of the last 10 seasons.
The first set went back and forth with both teams showing their offensive strengths as the Spartans hit .310 while the Pandas hit .351. With 11 ties scores and six lead changes in the set, the match went beyond the minimum with Alberta staving off two match points before the Spartans secured the win at 26-24. With the score tied 24-24, a kill from Howe gave TWU its third crack at set point and this time a block from Heppell and Howe gave the Spartans the win.
Howe had seven kills in the set to lead TWU, while White had eight kills without a single error on 15 attempts.
The second set saw the Pandas raced out to a 4-1 lead before quickly extending their advantage to five points, at 7-2. However, the Spartans chipped away at the Alberta lead, tying the set at 10-10. The Pandas went ahead 17-16, but a 5-0 run from TWU gave the home side the lead for good and TWU held on to take the set after an Alberta serving error. The Spartans hit .265 in the set, while Alberta hit .253.
Through two sets, White had 15 kills while Howe led TWU with eight. The Spartans had a 5-2 edge in aces, but Alberta had six blocks to the Spartans four.
Alberta took control of the third set early on, opening a 10-4 lead before grabbing a 16-8 edge at the technical timeout. The teams traded points down the stretch with the Pandas holding off any sort of Spartans surge to force a fourth set with a seven-point win. Alberta found its offensive rhythm, hitting .325 while committing just two attacking errors. TWU hit .206 with five errors.
The fourth set was tight from the outset. Alberta broke the game open just a bit, taking a 13-10 lead, but the Spartans clawed right back, tying the set 14-14. After the technical timeout, the Pandas went back to work, building a 19-16 lead before nabbing a four-point edge, at 21-17. From there, Alberta held off the Spartans, rolling to another seven-point win and forcing a fifth and deciding set. Once again, the Pandas offensive efficiency was the difference, hitting .281 compared the Spartans .111.
In the fifth set, the Spartans pulled away early and never allowed Alberta back in it, with TWU winning the match in emphatic fashion.