Spartans Rally to Beat Mexico in U23 Pan AM Cup Opener

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September 26, 2012, langley, BC (ISN) – The Trinity Western men’s volleyball team, representing Canada, staged an impressive rally from two sets down as they roared back to beat Mexico 3-2 (20-25, 24-26, 25-18, 25-13, 15-13) in the Spartans opening match of the U23 Pan American Men’s Volleyball Cup Tuesday at the Langley Events Centre.

After dropping the first two sets to a young U19 Mexican side – one that was made up entirely of 15 to 17-year-olds – the Spartans turned the match around with an impressive third set, a dominant fourth set and a tight fifth.

While Mexico put together a strong performance and was certainly the better side through the first two sets, it was unable to match the Spartans physicality down the stretch and ultimately succumbed to a Trinity Western attack that improved throughout the match.

The Spartans were led offensively by Nick Del Bianco (Surrey, B.C.), who had 16 kills and three aces and Brad Kufske (Abbotsford, B.C.), who had 16 kills and three blocks. Derek Thiessen (Coquitlam, B.C.) added 10 kills while Lucas Van Berkel (Edmonton) had seven kills. Playing in his first international game as a setter, Trinity Western’s Jarrod Offereins (Calgary) had 15 running sets.

As for Mexico, it was Enrique Ugalde leading the charge as he had 17 kills, while teammate Mauricio Lopez added 11 kills and one block. Setter Sebastian Castro, who is Mexico’s youngest player as he doesn’t turn 16 until October, finished with 11 running sets.

With the win the Spartans are now 1-0 in the tournament while Mexico drops to 0-1.

“I thought tonight was a great example of how a great volleyball team with great skills can overcome a size mismatch,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “We were clearly the older, more experienced, bigger and stronger team but Mexico showed great system, great discipline and great ball control and their decision-making of their hitters was spectacular. It’s a great lesson for our team to learn how important skills are to play this game really well. I thought it was a tight match between a big, physical team and a great skill team. All the credit to Mexico for having great skills and patience.”

Mexico’s head coach Oscar Licea said: “Despite this defeat, I am very glad about the way we played. This is about getting mature, and that is what we are looking for in preparation for the World Championship, and even though we lost the fourth set, they went out to fight in the last one.”

Mexico came out in the first set looking sharp and was clearly the better team as it snuck balls around, over and through a Spartans block that proved ineffective. With an unmatched early energy, the visiting Mexicans were able to run away with a convincing 25-20 first set win.

In the second set, the Spartans showed more cohesion and started to slow Mexico’s slick, quick-moving attack. But with a 24-21 Spartans lead, Mexico suddenly came back in impressive fashion. The Mexicans earned five points in a row to stun the Spartans and take a 2-0 set advantage with a 26-24 win.

However, with the Spartans starting to find their system, they took over in the third and fourth sets with dominant performances. In the third set, with the score 18-16 for the Spartans, Trinity Western pulled away as they finished on a 7-2 run to earn their first set of the tournament.

Then, with momentum in their corner, the Spartans were too much for Mexico in the fourth set as they were the better team throughout and sent the match to a fifth set with a 12-point win.

In the fifth set, the teams went back and forth until 9-9. But with a single point, the Spartans made it 10-9 and possessed the lead the rest of the way as they eked out the 15-13 win.

“It was interesting for us. We came out really tight and pretty nervous,” said Trinity Western captain Jarrod Offereins. “We didn’t bring a lot of energy and we were inside our own heads and weren’t able to get into a good rhythm. Mexico did a great job of throwing us into that and playing sound volleyball. It was nice for us to regain that focus and energy as a team. We had some big guys step up. Brad Kufske and Nick (Del Bianco) stepped up energy-wise and play-wise and allowed us to get back into the match. We got back to simple volleyball and that was key for us.”

Mexico captain Lopez added: “I want to congratulate Canada for the victory. We went out to play our best match and play one point at a time. I know we did our best, but things didn’t go right at the end.”

Trinity Western has Wednesday off before they play Dominican Republic Thursday at 8 p.m. Mexico is back in action Wednesday when it will play Argentina at 6 p.m.

To buy tickets for the U-23 Pan American Volleyball Cup, go to www.langleyeventscentre.com or go to the TWU Bookstore on the Trinity Western University campus.

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