No.3 TWU Men’s Volleyball Hosts No.6 Manitoba

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January 16, 2013, LANGLEY, BC (ISN) – After a tough five-set loss to now No. 5 Brandon last Saturday that forced the Trinity Western men’s volleyball team to settle for a home split with the Bobcats, the Spartans will look to get back to their winning ways this weekend when they host No. 6 Manitoba Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m.

Both games will be streamed live at www.canadawest.tv.

The last time the Spartans and Bisons crossed paths was in last year’s Canada West gold medal match, when TWU edged Manitoba in five sets at the Langley Events Centre.

While the Spartans, who went on to win the 2011 CIS national championship, got the best of the Bisons on that night, during the regular season, it was Manitoba who handed TWU its only regular season or playoff loss of the 2011-12 year; a 3-0 setback at Manitoba.

TRINITY WESTERN SPARTANS (11-3)

  • CIS ranking: No. 3
  • Canada West position: 2nd
  • Last Weekend: Brandon 3-2 W, 3-2 L
  • Streak: 1 loss
  • 2011-12 Canada West record: 19-1 (1st)
  • 2012 CW playoffs: 2-0 (1st)
  • 2012 CIS tournament: 3-0 (1st)

After the Spartans had won 26 straight matches at the Langley Events Centre, the streak was snapped last weekend after Brandon rallied from two sets down to earn a stunning victory. Following the match, TWU coach Ben Josephson called it “an excruciatingly painful loss” and “unacceptable.”

This week, the Spartans get to turn a new page as they will try to realign the ship against Manitoba. Having won the first two sets in both of last week’s matches against Brandon only to see the Bobcats force a fifth set on both occasions, the key for TWU is simple: close out the match. Accomplishing that feat will be the challenge. And against a Bisons team that is fighting for a home playoff spot and is coming off a loss, it’ll be all the more difficult.

Fortunately for TWU, it will have outside hitter Nick Del Bianco (Surrey, B.C.) back on the court as he returns after missing last week’s matches to attend his brother’s wedding. Del Bianco leads the Spartans in kills, with 3.32 per set (8th in Canada West), and points, with 3.84 per set (9th in CW) and is second on the team in aces, with 0.30 per set (8th in CW). While the Spartans have plenty of options on the outside, including Steven Marshall (2.55 kills/set, Abbotsford, B.C.), Brad Kufske (2.95 kills/set, Abbotsford), Derek Thiessen (1.51 kills/set, Coquitlam, B.C.) and Branden Schmidt (1.24 kills/set, De Winton, Atla.), Del Bianco’s presence will certainly make a difference.

In the middle, Lucas Van Berkel (Edmonton) and Dan Jansen Van Doorn (Langley) have been solid all season and will need to continue to be pillars of strength for TWU if it is to build towards the ultimate goal of a third straight CIS title. Van Berkel leads the conference in aces, with 0.35 per set, and is ninth in Canada West in blocks, with 1.18 per set. Jansen Van Doorn has 1.15 blocks per set. Libero Tyler Koslowsky (Abbotsford) is second in the conference with 3.10 digs per set.

As a team, TWU’s strength has been in serving, blocking and digging. The Spartans lead Canada West in aces, with 1.57 per set, digs, with 12.20 per set, and are third in blocks, with 2.71 per set. Trinity Western has a hitting percentage of .232 (4th in CW) and an opponent hitting percentage of .167 (2nd in CW).

MANITOBA BISONS (8-6)

  • CIS ranking: No. 6
  • Canada West position: 6th
  • Last Weekend: Mount Royal W 3-1, L 3-1
  • Streak: 1 loss
  • 2011-12 Canada West record: 18-2 (2nd)
  • 2012 CW playoffs: 3-1 (2nd)
  • 2012 CIS tournament: 2-1 (3rd)

While Manitoba enters this weekend ranked No. 6 in the country, it’s been a struggle of late for the Bisons as they have lost four of their last five matches and five of their last seven and sit just two games about .500.

Following a sweep of UBC Okanagan Nov. 16-17, Manitoba has lost twice to UBC and once each to Thompson Rivers, Winnipeg and Mount Royal. The Bisons wins came against Mount Royal and Thompson Rivers.

After winning their first match against Mount Royal last weekend and then taking the opening set on the second night by six points, the Bisons lost three sets in a row, all by two points, as they fell to a now 5-9 Cougars side. This weekend, against TWU, they will look to turn their fortunes around at the LEC.

But over the years, Langley has not been kind to the Bisons. Manitoba has lost six in a row in Langley, including last year’s Canada West gold medal match. One has to go back to Jan. 12, 2007 for the last time the Bisons left Langley with a win. Since TWU moved its home games to the LEC in 2009, the Bisons are winless in three tries.

Manitoba is third in Canada West in both hitting percentage, at .251, and opponent hitting percentage, at .182. The Bisons lead the conference in blocks, with 3.15 per set. They are fifth in digs, with 11.13 per set, and kills, with 12.37 per set, sixth in aces, with 1.07 per set, and seventh in assists, with 11.41 per set.

Individually, the Bisons offence has been led by Dane Pischke (Winnipeg), who is averaging 3.39 kills per set (7th in Canada West) and 4.14 points per set (5th in CW). Libero Derek Nieroda (Headingley, Man.) leads the conference with 3.50 digs per set. Middle Kenny Rooney (Winnipeg) leads Canada West in blocks, with 1.38 per set, and is fourth in hitting percentage, at .385. Setter Chris Komishon (Winnipeg) is averaging 9.74 assists per set (5th in CW).

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