September 30, 2012, langley, BC – The Trinity Western men’s volleyball team, representing Canada, was held off the podium at the U23 Pan American Cup as it lost to the Dominican Republic 3-0 (25-23, 25-15, 25-23) in the bronze medal match Sunday at the Langley Events Centre.

After beating the Dominicans in straight sets in the round robin, the Spartans were unable to duplicate the feat Sunday as they finished the tournament with three straight losses, a 2-3 record and a fourth place finish overall. The Dominicans finished the tournament with a 2-3 record and the bronze medal.

The Spartans were led by Lucas Van Berkel (Edmonton), who had six kills and five blocks, Brad Kufske (Abbotsford, B.C.), who had nine kills and Nick Del Bianco (Surrey, B.C.), who had five kills and two blocks.

For the Dominican Republic, Pedro Luis Garcia had 19 kills and one block while Luis David Adames finished with 14 kills and one block. Wilfrido Hernandez added a team-high four blocks.

“It’s really hard to beat a good volleyball team twice in a row and we saw that tonight,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “The first night (during the round robin) we got a win and probably surprised them, but over the last few days they watched us and prepared for us and cleaned up some of things we did well in the first match. Their service reception today was spectacular. We weren’t able to get much going until the third game but credit to the Dominican Republic coaching staff and players on a good match.”

Osiel Vazquez, coach of the Dominican Republic, said: “I want to congratulate Canada, because they played five matches that were very demanding for them in the tournament. I feel happy for my athletes, because we achieved the goal of winning a medal.”

The Spartans got off to a good start in the opening set as they possessed an 8-6 lead at the first technical timeout. However, the Dominicans got two straight points out of the break to knot the set 8-8 and steal momentum right back. Then, after several back and forth points, and with the score 14-14, the Dominicans took over. Going on a 4-0 run, they grabbed the lead and never trailed the rest of the way. While the Spartans roared back from a 23-19 deficit to tie the set 23-23, a pair of points from the Dominican Republic snuffed out the Spartans comeback attempt and ended the set.

In the second stanza, the Dominican Republic took an early lead and never allowed the Spartans to generate any momentum. With the score 9-8 for the Dominicans, the visitors went on a 5-1 run to open a five-point edge. Then, with the score 16-12, the Dominican Republic took off on a 7-1 run to put the game out of reach en route to a 10-point set win.

In the third set, it was the Spartans getting out to a hot start as they jumped out to an 11-6 advantage. Trinity Western maintained its lead through the middle stages and was up 18-14 shortly after the second technical timeout. But that’s when things turned for the Dominicans.

Substituting setter Cesar Junior Alcantara Cabulla in for Hansell Ponceano, the Domincan Republic went on a 7-1 run that gave the eventual victors all the momentum. The Spartans never fully recovered and the Dominicans held the Spartans off just enough to earn a two-point win and the match.

“The Dominican Republic played a great game today,” Spartans captain Jarrod Offereins said. “They were much more prepared for us this time around. They executed well. They took it to us and we fell apart in different parts of different sets. Tonight it wasn’t a good performance again. Two nights in a row, it’s tough to take, but we’ll learn from it and get ready to start the season.”

Dominican captain Wilfrido Hernandez said: “Winning this medal means a lot for us. We really wished it and wanted it. Now we have another competition in November and this will help us a lot.”

The Spartans are back on the court this week as they will play Thompson Rivers twice, Oct. 4, at Abbotsford’s MEI, and 5, at White Rock, B.C.’s Earl Marriott, before hosting UBC Okanagan Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. on a night when they will raise thier 2012 CIS National Championship banner.

NOTES – The Dominicans had 46 kills to the Spartans 30…Trinity Western had nine blocks to Dominican Republic’s seven…both teams had one service ace each…Brad Kufske finished the tournament as the Spartans top scorer with 75 points…Dan Jansen Van Doorn led the team with 0.95 blocks per set.