LANGLEY, British Columbia – In a do or die match, the No. 3 ranked Trinity Western women’s volleyball team earned a spot in the CIS national championship by capturing the Canada West bronze medal game with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 30-28) win over Winnipeg, who was also No. 3 in the most recent rankings, Saturday at the War Memorial Gym.
While the Spartans got the win, they didn’t make it easy on themselves as they had to eke out wins in both the first and third sets after possessing four-point leads at match point on both occasions. But in the end, Trinity Western, who took home the CIS bronze medal at last year’s national championship, got the win it needed and will now travel to Hamilton, Ont. for this year’s national tournament Mar. 8-10.
Trinity Western was led by Royal Richardson, who had 10 kills and five digs, Alicia Perrin, who had 11 blocks and four kills, and Kelci French, who had eight kills, eight digs and four blocks. Setter Chelsea Hudson had 26 assists and had six block assists.
The Wesmen was led by Lauren Sears who had eight kills, four aces and six blocks, Carleen Kruschel, who had eight kills and five digs, and Ozana Nikolic, who had six kills, 13 digs and four blocks.
The Spartans looked poised to cruise to an easy win in the third set, up 24-20 with all the momentum on their side and a CIS berth just a point away. But the Wesmen proved to have plenty of fight left, rallying for five straight points, led by fifth-year middle Lauren Sears.
After Nikolic hammered a kill to make it 24-21, Sears smacked a kill of her own and then teamed up for a block with Nikolic to bring the Wesmen within one. Ellina Domnidou added a kill to tie the game up, and Sears then registered her eighth kill of the night to give the Wesmen a chance at game point.
But the Spartans Amy Leschied came up with a kill and then an ace to put Trinity Western back up one, and after the teams traded points a few times, Trinity Western’s Richardson finally put one down for the Spartans on their seventh chance at match point to send them through to the CIS tournament.
The Spartans kept the Wesmen offence out of sync all night with 16 blocks in the match. Alicia Perrin had a dominant performance in the middle, getting in on 11 of those blocks, including one solo.
“I thought our blocking was what did it for us this game. We passed well and did okay offensively, but Alicia did a fantastic job at the net,” said Trinity Western head coach Ryan Hofer. “Our wing blockers did a good job of containing it, and we picked up the ball and looked in transition for the kill.”
The Wesmen were the least experienced team at the Final Four, with several first or second year players taking on key roles for the team. That inexperience seemed to show up in crucial moments this weekend, as they were agonizingly close to victory against Alberta yesterday with late leads in four of the five sets, and again came up short in some tight sets against the Spartans.
“On this team we have no players with Final Four experience and so even though you try to make it just another match, there’s really a lot of emotion attached to the fact that there’s a berth to nationals on line and it becomes a bigger deal,” said Diane Scott. “Yesterday we had opportunities to finish off the match and qualify but we just got a little tight, and then at the end today we had some moments but just made a few too many unforced errors.”
The Spartans now have their sights set on the CIS tournament, but Hofer said they won’t forget their rather lopsided loss to UBC in the semifinals last night either.
“It’s a high pressure weekend and we have to learn to deal with that pressure. UBC is a great team and they played us outstanding, and we played okay. You’re not going to win a game like that. Now it’s about learning from what happened this weekend and taking that forward into an even bigger tournament.”
The Spartans took home the bronze at last year’s CIS tournament. They will join UBC and Alberta in search of more CIS glory for the Canada West conference from March 2-4 in Hamilton, Ontario.
In the first set the Spartans possessed a lead throughout much of the frame and, after staking themselves to a 24-18 lead, had a chance to serve for the set. But Winnipeg battled back. They Wesmen scored five straight points to make it a 24-23 contest. After Trinity Western called a timeout, the Spartans Leschied earned the set’s next point with a kill to give the Spartans a 25-23 win.
The second set was largely the same for Trinity Western as they broke away from Winnipeg early and built a sizable lead in the middle stages. This time however with a chance at set point at 24-16, the Spartans closed it out quickly, winning 25-18.
That set up what turned into a wild third set that saw Trinity Western hit -.020 and Winnipeg hit .020. Like the first two sets the Spartans took an early lead but more akin to the first set, they let the Wesmen back in it late before closing out the win at 30-28.
Game Notes: TWU had 16 blocks to Winnipeg’s 12…TWU hit .091 while Winnipeg hit -.017…Winnipeg had six digs to TWU’s four.