Spartans Fall to Second Ranked Alberta

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Mark Janzen

LANGLEY, British Columbia – The No. 2 ranked Alberta Pandas knocked off the No. 8 Trinity Western Spartans 3-2 (25-17, 20-25, 25-18, 26-24, 15-10) in women’s volleyball action Saturday at the David E. Enarson Gymnasium.

With the Bears down 2-1 after the third set, they managed to squeak out a tight fourth set win, 26-24, and then after trailing 5-1 in fifth set, went on to earn 14 of the game’s final 19 points as they quieted a vibrant Spartans crowd packed into the old Trinity Western on-campus gym.

Alberta was led by Alena Omelchenko, who had 12 kills, nine digs and five blocks, Alyssa Jones, who had 11 digs, 15 assists, five aces and five kills, and Jaki Ellis, who had 25 assists and seven kills.

The Spartans were led by the three pronged attack of Amy Leschied, who had 14 kills, Royal Richardson, who had 12 kills, and Alicia Perrin, who had 11 kills. Setter Chelsea Hudson finished with 36 assists and seven digs while libero Jodi Neufeld had a game-high 21 digs.

The loss drops the Spartans to 8-4 while the win improves Alberta to 8-4.

“We lost the serve receive battle tonight,” said Spartans coach Ryan Hofer. “They served us tough and we struggled to pass the ball. We need to be able to get it to our setter on a consistent basis so we can run our offence and find the hitters that we need to find.

“I think there were times in that fifth set when we got a little bit tentative and we should have been swinging. We need to make sure we stay aggressive. We were up 2-1 (in sets) because we were aggressive and we made some really good plays. We kind of hesitated in the fifth set. Alberta played very well tonight and we need to learn from the things they did to us.”

The Pandas got off to a bright start as they opened the contest hitting. 296, serving four aces and making four blocks in the first set alone en route to a convincing eight-point opening set win.

With the Spartans leading 15-13, the Pandas turned the game in their favour with a 9-1 run, capped by a Lia Stang kill, which gave Alberta a 22-16 edge and the set’s momentum.

Trinity Western got the next point but three straight kills from Alberta – by Stang, Omelchenko and Ellis – sealed the set for the Pandas at 25-17.

In the second set, the tide turned towards the Spartans as they had control throughout most of the set. With Trinity Western trailing 4-3, the Spartans went on a 4-0 to make it 7-4 and never trailed the rest of the way. The Spartans built their biggest lead of the set at 20-14 after a Leschied ace and then cruised to a 25-20 win.

After just two kills in the first set, Trinity Western Royal Richardson had six in the second set to lead the home side.

The third set was a game of lopsided runs as the Spartans opened the set with five straight points, sparked by back-to-back Nicole Bazin aces. The Pandas responded with a 7-1 run to take the lead 7-6. Then the Spartans came right back with four straight points in reply before Alberta went on a 4-0 run of its own to take an 11-10 lead.

From there the teams settled into a back and forth match until after the technical timeout when Trinity Western turned a 17-17 game into a 21-17 lead, a surge aided by two aces from Amber Brown.

The Pandas never recovered as Trinity Western finished the set with a 4-1 run that gave the Spartans the 25-18 win. In what was a rather inefficient set, the Spartans got away with a hitting percentage of just .056 as the Pandas were in a similar boat with a -.143 attacking percentage.

In the fourth set, neither team gave an inch as the two sides went back and forth without more than a two point lead on either side throughout the entire set.

Led by Omelchenko, who had five kills in the set, the Pandas eked out a 26-24 win. With the score tied 24-24, with the Spartans having tied it 24-24 after a Leschied kill, the Pandas capitalized on a Trinity Western serving error followed by an Omelchenko kill to take the set.

By the end of the set, there had been 11 tied scores.

After dropping the fourth set, the Spartans came out in the fifth on fire as they quickly built a 5-1 lead.

However, the Pandas replied big time, as they scored six of the next seven points to take a 7-6 lead. After that, Alberta started to take control. The Pandas pushed their lead to 10-8 and then after a huge block from Jones, seized the sets momentum while taking an 11-8 lead. From there, Alberta kept pushing, rolling to a 15-10 win.

The Spartans return to the Langley Events Centre, Jan. 20-21, when they will host Winnipeg while Alberta will be back out in B.C. next weekend to take on UBC Okanagan.

Game Notes – The Spartans hit just .097 per cent while Alberta hit .102…Alberta had 11 blocks to TWU’s nine…Alberta had 16 aces while TWU had 13.

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