Langley, British Columbia – For the next week, the Trinity Western women’s volleyball team will be seeing nothing but red. But for once, that’s a good thing, as the typically blue and yellow Spartans will be representing Canada and donning the maple leaf at the U-23 Women’s Pan American Cup in Lima, Peru, which runs Sept. 3-8.
For the first time in the program’s history, the Spartans women, as a team, will wear red and white on an international stage and will have the chance to do so against some of the top under-23 players in the world.
“It’s awesome. I’m excited for all of the girls to experience this and to go down and play some international teams and get a taste for what it’s like,” said Spartans third-year setter Kelci French (Okotoks, Alta.), who represented Canada twice this past summer at both the NORCECA Olympic Trials and the Senior Pan American Cup. “We’ve been working really hard and playing well in practice. It’ll be a great experience and something no other team in the CIS will have in terms of preseason competition.”
Alongside Canada, the eight-team tournament will feature sides from Brazil, Cuba, Dominicana, Argentina, Peru, Columbia and Costa Rica. The Canadians will face off against Dominicana, Peru and Costa Rica in opening round pool play, and will no doubt be in tough against what coach Ryan Hofer expects to be stiff competition.
“It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to prepare us,” Hofer said. “We know the volleyball is very strong in South America, so it’s going to be good. We’re going to be put under pressure. It’s going to expose weaknesses. It’s going to show where we need to improve and I think all of that will be incredibly beneficial down the road.”
For the Spartans aspirations within both Canada West and the CIS, this tournament will certainly be a valuable launching pad for a season that arrives with great expectations. After a fifth place finish at last year’s national championship, the Spartans, who return all but two players from their 2011-12 squad, are hoping to improve upon that result and indeed enter this season with dreams of a national championship. So with that in mind, Hofer is thrilled with the opportunity to start the season playing at such a high level.
“We’re going into this preparing for the long run,” Hofer said. “We have to get things in place faster because we have to perform at a high level so soon but we still need to get the right things in place so we can be competitive and build for the season.”
Follow Trinity Western at the tournament at both www.norceca.net and www.gospartans.ca.
Canada’s U-23 Women’s Pan American Cup Schedule
Sept. 3 – Canada vs. Peru – 18:30 PDT
Sept. 4 – Canada vs. Dominicana – 16:30 PDT
Sept. 5 – Canada vs. Costa Rica – 16:30 PDT
Sept. 6 – Quarter-finals
Sept. 7 – Semifinals
Sept. 8 – Finals
The competition format includes the preliminary pool play from September 3 to 5 with the top teams in each group getting a bye to the semifinals. The second and third place teams will compete in crossover quarterfinals on September 6 with the semifinals and finals on September 7-8.
The Spartans efforts in Peru will be the first of two opportunities for Trinity Western teams to compete internationally this year, as the men’s volleyball team will represent Canada this September when they compete in the U-23 Pan American Men’s Volleyball Cup, which will be hosted at the Langley Events Centre Sept. 25-30. For more information and to buy tickets go to www.langleyeventscentre.ca.
About Spartans Women’s Volleyball
The Trinity Western women’s volleyball team qualified for the CIS national championship in 2011-12 for the third time in the last four years. After capturing the Canada West bronze medal, the Spartans went into the national championship ranked No. 6 in the tournament. After falling to Montreal in the quarter-final, the team rallied to win its last two games of the season to earn a fifth place finish at nationals.
The team finished the Canada West regular season with a 13-7 record and, at one point in the year, were ranked as high as No. 2 in the CIS Top 10.
Trinity Western beat Calgary on home court in the first round of the playoffs to qualify for the Canada West Final Four. At the Final Four, they lost to UBC in the semifinal before beating Winnipeg in the bronze medal match.
The Spartans have qualified for the national championship five times in their 13-year history of playing at the CIS level. They earned a bronze medal in 2011, a fourth place finish in 2007 and fifth place finishes in 2006, 2009 and 2012.