LANGLEY, British Columbia – The No. 1 Trinity Western men’s volleyball team beat No. 3 Alberta 3-1 (21-25, 25-23, 25-17, 25-22) Friday night at the David E. Enarson Gymnasium.
After dropping the first set 25-21 and hitting .000 per cent, the Spartans turned things around in the second set, eking out a two-point win and then rolled from there as they proved to be the better side down the stretch.
In their first game back at the David E. Enarson Gymnasium since 2009 and wearing vintage Spartans uniforms, Rudy Verhoeff led Trinity Western with 20 kills, 11 digs and four blocks while Steven Marshall, playing libero in place of the injured Jarrod Offereins, finished with a game-high 18 digs and Dan Jansen Van Doorn had a game-high seven blocks.
For Alberta, it was Mitch Irvine with a game-high 22 kills, to go along with three blocks and six digs while Taylor Hunt had nine kills and 10 digs and setter Jarron Mueller had 39 assists and a team-high 11 digs.
The win improves the Spartans to 11-0 on the season while the loss drops Alberta to 8-3.
“I thought we were pretty nervous to start,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “With that crowd and our opponent and not really having great rhythm after Christmas break, I thought our guy responded by being a little tight. In the first set we made a lot of errors but give credit to Alberta for having a good plan.
“I thought the guys responded well and made some game-time adjustments. I thought Ben [Ball] did a good job of adjusting our offence all night. I didn’t think any one guy was spectacular because they kept taking away whoever was hot and that’s what good opponents will do. That was a playoff type of game.”
The first set started in favour of the Golden Bears and Alberta managed to hold the lead from start to finish.
With the Bears up 15-12, they pulled away for good with a 5-0 run thanks in large part to three straight kills from Irvine.
However, with Alberta up 20-12, the Spartans roared right back with a 7-1 run, largely with Lucas Van Berkel at the serving line.
But the Bears didn’t let Trinity Western get any closer as the visitors notched four straight points to open up a 24-19 lead and then cruised to a 25-21 first set win.
The difference statistically was clear as Alberta finished the set with a .290 attacking percentage compared to Trinity Western who was .000.
While the Bears had control of much of the first set, the second set was tight throughout.
Neither team took more than a two-point lead until the Spartans finally broke through with a Van Berkel ace to make it 18-15 for the home side.
The Spartans pushed their lead to 23-20 after a Marc Howatson kill but the Bears wouldn’t let Trinity
Western run away with the set easily. After a Trinity Western serving error, the Bears closed the gap to one point, 24-23. But the next point went the Spartans way as a Verhoeff kill gave Trinity Western a 25-23 win.
After the second set, both teams big swingers were dominating as Alberta’s Mitch Irvine had 12 kills while Trinity Western’s Verhoeff had 11 kills.
In the third set, Trinity Western was the better side early on as the Spartans charged out to a 9-3 lead.
However, the Bears responded with seven of the next 10 points to get within three points at 13-10.
The Spartans went right back to work through, scoring three of the next four points to take a 16-11 lead into the technical timeout.
Out of the break, Alberta got the first point but then the Spartans got the next two, thanks to a kill, followed by two service aces, all from Dan Jansen Van Doorn to give Trinity Western a 19-12 lead.
Trinity Western continued to push their lead to as much as 10 points at 24-14 and then after Alberta got three points late, Van Berkel finished the game off with a kill over the middle to win 25-17.
The fourth set started very much like the third set as the Spartans took an 8-3 lead and forced Alberta into taking timeout. The Spartans were led by Verhoeff who was flying early with three kills in Trinity Western’s first eight points.
Trinity Western extended its lead to 12-5 before Alberta started taking its piece of the set, with four of the next five points to close to within four points at 13-9.
And the Bears kept coming, crawling nearly all the way back as they made it a one-point game, 14-13.
That’s when things started going back and forth. First the Spartans made a 3-0 run to open a four-point lead and the Alberta responded with back-to-back points to make it 17-15.
The Spartans didn’t let them get any closer. The Bears again got to within two points at 24-22 but couldn’t muster anything more before Marc Howatson put away the winning kill.
The teams will meet in a rematch Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. at the David E. Enarson Gymnasium.
Game Notes – The Spartans finished with a .230 attack percentage while Alberta had a .180 percentage…TWU had 12 blocks to Alberta’s nine…TWU had nine aces to Alberta’s three.