Spartans Knock Off Thunderbirds in Three

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LANGLEY, British Columbia –
The No.1 Trinity Western men’s volleyball team made it a short night Friday as they beat No. 6 UBC 3-0 (25-15, 25-22, 25-14) at the Langley Events Centre.

The win improves the Spartans to 18-1 on the season and leaves them one win shy of capturing the Canada West regular season title for the first time in program history. The Spartans have also eclipsed their previous best for wins in a season as prior to this year they had never won more than 16 games, which they accomplished in a 16-4 2005-06 campaign.

If the Spartans can complete the weekend sweep of the Thunderbirds Saturday and thus clinch top spot in the league, they will host the Canada West Final Four Feb. 24-25 and will automatically qualify for the CIS national championship.

The T-Birds, who are now 10-9 on the season but have already qualified for playoffs, are tied for fifth in the Canada West standings.

The Spartans were the better team from the opening serve to the final kill as they hit .493 on the night, including .667 in the third set, and only made five attack errors en route to a decisive win. Trinity Western’s least efficient hitter on the night, Marc Howatson, hit .417. On the other side of the net, the T-Birds hit .111 and had 11 serving errors to just one ace as they fell for the seventh time in their last nine outings.

Trinity Western was led by Rudy Verhoeff, who had 11 kills, five digs, two blocks and an ace, Steven Marshall, who had eight kills, 10 digs, two blocks and an ace, and Lucas Van Berkel, who had eight kills and four blocks. Setter Ben Ball had a game-high 30 assists.

The T-Birds were led by Sjur Godo, who had nine kills, one block and an ace and Jarrid Ireland, who had seven kills and six digs.

“We had a business-like attitude and the guys had great emotion,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “The crowd fired them up and the guys embraced the atmosphere and played like they’ll have to play to win some of these matches in the playoffs.

“We had great offensive balance. I think we had 28 attempts to the left side, 19 to the middle middle and 20 to the right. That type of balance with that type of passing lets Ben [Ball] go to work and he is so dangerous when you let him have that many hot hitters to go to. When the guys are making that great of decisions at the net and passing so well, it’s going to make for a pretty easy night for us. To their credit, [UBC] scrambled pretty well in that second set but I thought our serve put them into trouble.”

In the first set, after a close opening few points, the Spartans pulled away in the middle stages and leaned on the T-Birds late as they thumped the visitors by a 10-point margin.

With the score 10-9, the Spartans went on a 6-2 run that gave the home side a five-point lead. From there, they kept rolling as a Marshall kill finished the set at 25-15.

The second set was the closest of the three as UBC not only hung with Trinity Western throughout but had a lead for most of the early stages.

With the score tied 4-4, the T-Birds went on a 3-0 run to earn a three-point lead. The T-Birds, playing their best set of the night, managed to keep their three-point lead up until 14-11.

That’s when Trinity Western started to get going. Sparked by a Howatson kill, the Spartans went on a 4-0 run that gave them a 15-14 lead and after that, they were never behind.

While UBC kept it close thanks to four-kill sets from both Ireland and Godo, they couldn’t keep up with the efficient machine that was Trinity Western on this night. After a serving error from UBC, the Spartans won 25-22.

In the third set, Trinity Western took its game to another level as they didn’t commit a single attacking error in the set. The Spartans were ahead from the outset and never looked back as Marshall once again got the finishing kill.

The Spartans and T-Birds will play in a rematch Saturday at 7:00 p.m. at the Langley Events Centre. For Spartans seniors Ball, Howatson and Verhoeff, it will be their final regular season match on home court.

Game Notes – TWU had 8.5 blocks to UBC’s 3.5…TWU had six aces to UBC’s one…TWU held UBC to .000 attacking in both the first and the third set.

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