Brandon Rallies to Stun No. 2 Spartans in Men’s Volleyball

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January 12, 2013, Langley, BC (ISN) – Down 2-0 and facing match-point in the third set, the Brandon Bobcats rallied to win three straight sets as it knocked off the No. 2 Trinity Western men’s volleyball team 3-2 Saturday at Langley Events Centre.

With TWU (11-3) up 2-0, the Bobcats (10-4) staved off match-point at 26-25 in the third set and went on to win 29-27, which forced the fourth set. Brandon then continued to roll in the fourth, winning by five, and in the fifth, while TWU picked up its play, the Bobcats pulled it out late, winning 15-13. With TWU up 13-12 in the fifth set, Brandon scored three straight points and, with a block from Dan Boutwell (Kenora, Ont), took the set and the match.

The loss is the Spartans first setback at the LEC, including exhibition games and the playoffs, since Jan. 22, 2011, when they fell to the Calgary Dinos. Over that span, TWU had won 26 straight matches at the LEC.

The Bobcats were led by Sam Tuivai (Auckland, New Zealand), who had 21 kills and 10 digs, while Roy Ching (Nelson, New Zealand) added 17 kills and 14 digs and Boutwell had 14 kills and five blocks. Setter Garrett Popplestone (Brandon, Man.) had a match-high 57 assists along with 15 digs and four blocks. Libero Scott Neufeld had a match-high 25 digs.

For the Spartans, it was Steven Marshall (Abbotsford, B.C.) leading the way with 18 kills and 10 digs while Brad Kufske (Abbotsford) had 13 kills and 10 digs. Derek Thiessen (Coquitlam, B.C.) had a career-high 11 kills, with his previous career-high being a nine kill effort he produced earlier this year against Thompson Rivers Nov. 9. Lucas Van Berkel (Edmonton) had a match-high 11 blocks to go with nine kills. Libero John Wiebe (Abbotsford) led the team with 15 digs.

“That’s an excruciatingly painful loss,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “To give up a 2-0 lead in your own building is unacceptable. If we want to be a championship team, that is unacceptable. We’ve proven we’re not ready for championship run. Now we have to train to become that kind of team.”

“They had a ton of emotion in the third set and it took us 15 or 16 points to match it, but we never did stop them after that. We lost our aggression. I thought we played timid in the fourth set and let that one slide away. In the fifth set, we played fine and it was anyone’s game, but they thoroughly outplayed us in the important sets.”

In the first set, the Spartans took control early on when they took a 7-7 tie and scored four straight points to go up 11-7. Brandon never got closer than three points the rest of the way. Trinity Western forced its agenda in the late stages and pulled away for a nine-point win. A kill from Thiessen ended the set.

In the second set, the Spartans went up 8-3 early and maintained that advantage up to 18-13. But then Brandon rallied with a 10-1 run, aided by four Bobcats blocks, that gave the visitors a 23-19 lead. But just as it looked like the Bobcats were primed to tie the match, the Spartans came right back. With Branden Schmidt (De Winton, Alta.) inserted for Brad Kufske, TWU scored five straight points – two coming via Schmidt kills – to give the Spartans a crack at set point. A kill by Brandon’s Ching tied it 24-24, but back-to-back kills from TWU’s Marshall completed the late-set rally.

The Bobcats led for most of the third set, but the Spartans never let them get any further than four points clear. With TWU down 22-20, a Marshall kill followed by a Van Berkel ace tied the set 22-22. After that, the teams traded points up until 27-27. The Spartans had one crack at match point, at 26-25 but Brandon held them off and then, with the score knotted at 27, Tuivai produced a kill and a block to earn the 29-27 win.

In the fourth set, TWU opened an 11-7 lead after a Van Berkel kill, but Brandon responded with a 6-0 run that gave the Bobcats a 13-11 lead. After a Spartans timeout, TWU went on a 5-1 run that reversed the lead, giving the home side a 16-14 advantage at the technical break. Out of the timeout, it was Brandon catching fire as it produced five straight points to force TWU to take a timeout with the Bobcats up 19-16. From there, Brandon kept the pressure on and, with Tuivai’s 19th kill of the night, the Bobcats took the set by five.

In the fifth set, the Bobcats grabbed a quick 6-4 lead but TWU replied with four straight points that gave the Spartans an 8-6 edge. Trinity Western maintained at least a one-point edge until Brandon tied it 11-11. Then, with the Spartans up 13-12, a Tuivai block got Brandon going in the right direction. Two points later and a match-winning Boutwell block and Brandon earned the weekend split and its biggest win of the season.

Final: (16-25, 24-26, 29-27, 25-20, 15-13)

The Spartans are back at home next weekend when they host Manitoba Jan. 18-19 at the Langley Events Centre. The Bobcats return to Brandon next weekend for a series against Alberta Jan. 18-19.

Game Notes: TWU finished with a .196 attacking percentage while Brandon hit .200…TWU out-blocked Brandon 17.5-14…TWU had a 6-5 edge in aces…TWU was playing without outside hitter Nick Del Bianco (Surrey, B.C.) for the second straight night as he attended his brother’s wedding.