Spartans Drop Four-Setter To No.1 Alberta

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February 9, 2013, Edmonton, AB (ISN) – The No. 5 Trinity Western men’s volleyball team couldn’t quite keep up with No.1 Alberta Friday night as the Spartans fell in four sets at the Saville Community Sports Centre.

With the win Alberta improves to 20-1 on the season, which is a Canada West single-season record, while the loss drops TWU to 15-6 and puts the Spartans in a tie with Saskatchewan for second place. The Spartans have already clinched a home playoff date for the Canada West quarter-finals but the loss means TWU can still finish anywhere from second to fourth. The Golden Bears have clinched first in the conference and, thus, have earned a first round playoff bye and will host the Final Four championship Feb. 22-24.

Alberta was led by Mitch Irvine’s match high 21 kills and 22 digs while Jay Olmstead had 16 kills, Tristan Aubry had six kills and three aces and Ryley Barnes had nine kills.

The defending CIS champion Spartans were led by Steven Marshall (Abbotsford, B.C.), who had 19 kills, while Nick Del Bianco (Surrey, B.C.) had 14 kills and 10 digs and Brad Kufske (Abbotsford) added 11 kills.

The difference between Alberta and TWU on Friday night came in the form of digs and the serving game, both of which the Bears won handily. As a team, Alberta brought up a whopping 72 digs, including 22 from Irvine, 15 from fifth-year libero Erik Mattson, 12 from Olmstead and 11 from setter Jarron Mueller. Trinity Western managed 58 digs, including 11 from second-year libero Tyler Koslowsky (Abbotsford).

At the service line, Alberta dropped eight aces to TWU’s four, while benefitting from 14 service errors by the Spartans compared to Alberta’s six. All in, the Bears were +12 from the serving line.

The Spartans had a 20.5 to 4 edge in blocks but still couldn’t earn more than one set.

“There was a great playoff-like feel to the match,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “When the Bears and Spartans get together, that’s to be expected. The game could have gone either way. But these are the types of matches we’re going to be playing in the rest of the way, so it’s good for our guys to experience this.

“I think the general feeling is we let that game slip away in the fourth set. We had an early lead but we let them back in the game on our mistakes. Hopefully we can respond and be a little bit sharper tomorrow. Both teams will make a bunch of adjustments and I’m excited to see how we can evolve from tonight.”

The two teams traded the lead back and forth in the opening set, with neither side getting more than a two point difference, including the final score of 25-23 for the Bears.

Alberta looked to be cruising to a second straight set win as they led 20-17, but they couldn’t stop TWU from firing back with a 8-1 run that gave TWU the set at 25-21. The Bears committed eight attack errors on offence in the second, compared to just three for TWU.

Terry Danyluk’s team shook off that loss very quickly however, and jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the third set. The Bears spun four aces in the third set alone, as Irvine, Mueller, Olmstead and Aubry each picked up one to pace the team to leads of 13-6 and 16-8. The Spartans did manag to close the gap a little, but a power-packed kill down the right touch line by Irvine, yet another ace, and a tip by Olmstead put the third set to bed 25-18 in favour of the home side.

Undeterred by the loss, TWU came out guns blazing in the fourth as they blew past Alberta for a quick 9-3 lead, including an ace by Del Bianco. However, just as quickly as they earned that lead, they lost it, as their 9-3 advantage turned into a 13-12 Alberta lead. After getting to 20-20, Aubry banked another ace to put Alberta up 21-20, and then Mattson, who recorded his 700th dig on the night, recorded a rare kill as his diving dig on a Spartan serve sailed over the net and into a pocket of empty court to keep the Bears in front. The Bears then managed to stay one point ahead, thanks to being awarded a contested point by the officials, and a sneaky push over the TWU block at the end of a great rally, but still couldn’t close the match out. Olmstead, however, scored two straight kills, including the winner off the Spartan block, for the 28-26 set win.

The two teams will clash again on Saturday night, this time at 7:30 p.m. MT.