LANGLEY, British Columbia – The No. 5 Trinity Western women’s volleyball knocked off the No. 1 UBC Thunderbirds 3-2 (25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 21-25, 15-9) Friday at the Langley Events Centre in what was the Spartans first five-set win of the regular season.
The Spartans took an early lead in the fifth set and then with the score 7-6 for Trinity Western, the home side pulled away with a 5-1 set-changing run en route to winning the set, thanks in large part to a .467 hitting percentage in the final set, and the match.
Trinity Western, who was coming off a road weekend in which they lost back-to-back games against then unranked Calgary, never trailed in sets as they beat a team ranked either first or second for the fourth time in five tries this year. The loss is just the second of the season for UBC – a team that has already clinched top spot in the Canada West standings – who also fell in five sets to Alberta earlier in the year.
The Spartans were led by Royal Richardson, who had 16 kills and nine digs, Kelci French, who had 13 kills and 16 digs, and Nicole Bazin, who had 10 kills and two blocks while hitting .450.
For the Thunderbirds, it was Kyla Richey leading the way with 15 kills, 12 digs and four blocks, while Rayel Quiring had nine kills, eight digs, three blocks and two aces and Lisa Barclay had 10 kills and four digs.
Trinity Western, who had already clinched home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs, improved to 13-6 and with a win Saturday night can capture second place in the conference. The loss drops UBC to 17-2. The Spartans have now won three in a row against UBC in regular season matches.
“This was good volleyball and this is the way I want to end our league,” said Spartans coach Ryan Hofer. “We’re playing good volleyball at the end to prepare us for the playoffs. UBC is a fantastic team and we went heads up tonight.
“We did a good job of connecting with the right hitters. We cleaned up our passing a little bit. We were able to get the ball to our wing hitters and they did a good job of attacking their block. They’re a good blocking team and we had to be smart about how we hit the ball.”
The first set started exactly as one would expect in a game featuring two of the top teams in the country. From start to finish there was never more than a three-point differential and that didn’t happen until late, when the T-Birds took a 20-17 advantage.
With the score 17-15 for Trinity Western, UBC went on what appeared to be a set-turning 5-0 run. With an ace and a kill from Quiring, the T-Birds had the biggest lead of the set and seemingly momentum.
But the Spartans rallied and after a Bazin block managed to retake the lead at 23-22. Then a Richardson kill went off the UBC block to give Trinity Western a two-point and, after the teams traded points, the Spartans took the set on a UBC attack that went just outside on the left side.
In the second set, the T-Birds raced out to and early 6-2 lead and never trailed in a set that was UBC-slanted throughout.
The T-Birds built their lead to as much as six points, at 11-5 and then again at 13-7, before the Spartans started to claw back. Trinity Western got within two points on three occasions but each time UBC cut off the rally with a point of its own to keep the Spartans from getting any closer.
After Trinity Western closed to gap to two points at 17-15, the T-Birds went on a 5-1 run, capped by a Barclay kill that gave UBC a 22-16 lead and one Trinity Western couldn’t rally from. The teams swapped points down the stretch as the T-Birds closed the set out ahead by six, 25-19.
In the third set, the T-Birds ran out to a 9-5 lead and for a while it looked like a repeat of the second set with UBC maintaining control for the majority of the opening half.
While the Spartans tied it 9-9 after an Alicia Perrin ace – one of three she had on the night – the T-Birds didn’t allow Trinity Western any closer. That is, until late.
With the score tied 18-18, after the Spartans Carly Hamilton notched an ace, the Spartans garnered their first lead since a 2-1 advantage after a Richardson kill made it 20-19 for the home side
From there, it was Richardson putting on a show.
The Spartans second year outside hitter got four of Trinity Western’s next five points, amounting for five kills on Trinity Western’s final six points, as she led the Spartans to a 25-23 win. A UBC attack error gave Trinity Western the win.
Richardson finished the set with six kills to lead the Spartans while Richey had five kills for the T-Birds. The T-Birds were plagued by serving errors as they had five in the third set alone.
The fourth set saw UBC come out flying, staking itself to a 6-0 lead and never trailed.
The Spartans got the game within one point on two occasions, making it 10-9 and then 16-15, but UBC never let them any closer.
With the score 18-16 for UBC, Shanice Marcelle earned a block that sparked a T-Birds run that saw UBC outscore the Spartans 7-4 down the stretch to earn a four-point win, 25-21.
Despite hitting just .125 in the set, the Spartans hit only .059 themselves and UBC capitalized. With three blocks in the set and three aces, the T-Birds sent the match to the fifth set.
In the fifth set, the Spartans took an early 2-1 lead and were never behind the entire way. With the score 7-6 for Trinity Western, the Spartans went on a 5-1 run, sparked by a Chelsea Wand kill, that blew open the set. From there, Trinity Western kept pushing as they took the set 15-9 after a kill from Richardson.
Game Notes – UBC outblocked TWU 10-4…UBC hit .231 compared to TWU who hit .216…TWU had 56 digs to UBC’s 53…UBC had eight aces to TWU’s six.