February 14, 2013, Langley, BC (ISN) – The No. 3 Trinity Western men’s volleyball will begin its quest for a CIS three-peat this weekend when it opens the Canada West playoffs against the No. 9 Winnipeg Wesmen in a best-of-three series Thursday, Friday and, if necessary, Saturday, at the Langley Events Centre.
Game times are 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and, if necessary, 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
All the games can be seen on www.canadawest.tv
For the Wesmen and Spartans, it’ll be a renewal of a long-standing playoff rivalry. Over the last nine years, TWU and Winnipeg have met in the post-season five times, including four Canada West quarter-final series, in 2010, 2008, 2006 and 2005. The Spartans are 3-1 in quarter-final series against Winnipeg and 1-0 in their lone Canada West semifinal clash, having beaten the Wesmen in a five-setter in 2007.
The Spartans and Wesmen split their season series, with Winnipeg winning 3-1 and TWU winning 3-2.
TRINITY WESTERN SPARTANS (16-6)
CIS ranking: No. 3
Canada West position: 2nd
Last Weekend: Alberta 3-1 L, 3-1 W
Streak: 1 win
2011-12 Canada West record: 19-1 (1st)
2012 playoffs: 2-0 (1st)
2012 CIS tournament: 3-0 (1st)
If there’s one team that has made life difficult on the Spartans over the years, it’s the Winnipeg Wesmen.
While the Spartans won five playoff matches in a row over Winnipeg from 2005 to 2007 – including two Canada West quarter-finals series sweeps and one Canada West semifinal match – most recently, the Wesmen have been a thorn in TWU’s side. In 2008, Winnipeg beat TWU in a quarter-final series in two straight and then, in 2010, the Wesmen put a scare into the Spartans, forcing a Game 3, before ultimately falling to the eventual CIS silver-medal winning TWU side.
Add to that the fact this year, other than No. 1 Alberta, Winnipeg was the only team to beat the Spartans in less than five sets, and this year’s playoff foes could well be a daunting task for No. 2 TWU.
Fortunately for the Spartans, a win over top-ranked Alberta in their regular season finale has this weekend’s home side teeming with confidence.
After losing three straight five-set matches, two of which came against Manitoba and one against Brandon, the Spartans won five of their last six regular season games, with their only loss coming against the Golden Bears.
As a team, TWU capped the season with statistically one of its best games of the year. With just eight attack errors on 100 attempts, the Spartans, with 52 kills, posted a .440 hitting percentage against an Alberta side that, on average, allowed the opposition to hit just .195. The Spartans also combined for 31 blocks over the weekend.
That two-game set completed a season in which TWU finished atop Canada West in opponent hitting percentage, at .174, service aces, at 1.58 per set, and digs, at 12.36 per set. The Spartans also finished third in blocks, with 2.92 per set, fourth in kills, with 12.49 per set, and fourth in attacking percentage, at .249.
Individually, the Spartans biggest statistical hitter this season was Nick Del Bianco (Surrey, B.C.), who finished with 3.65 kills per set (6th in Canada West) while also collecting a conference-high 0.41 aces per set. Leading TWU’s block was the combination of Dan Jansen Van Doorn (Langley), who averaged 1.36 blocks per set (3rd in CW), and Lucas Van Berkel (Edmonton), who averaged 1.26 blocks per set (6th in CW). Van Berkel also averaged 0.32 aces per set, which had him second in the conference behind Del Bianco. Defensively, Tyler Koslowsky (Abbotsford, B.C.) finished with a team-high 3.17 digs per set (2nd in CW).
WINNIPEG WESMEN (11-11)
CIS ranking: No. 9
Canada West position: 7th
Last Weekend: TRU 3-0 L, 3-0 W
Streak: 1 win
2011-12 conference record: 7-13 (8th)
Last CW title: N/A
Last CIS title: 2007
This year, the Wesmen have defined the term unpredictable. At times, they’ve been great. Other times, they have been far from great.
Other than getting swept by Alberta and sweeping UBC Okanagan, the Wesmen split every other regular season series, including their two-game set against TWU. Fortunately for Winnipeg, a .500 record was just good enough to get the Wesmen back into the playoffs only a year after missing out on the post-season following a 7-13 season in 2011-12.
But for Winnipeg coach Larry McKay, who is in his 24th season leading the Wesmen, while his team has been inconsistent, at the same time, it’s proven it can beat every team, except Alberta, in a Canada West conference that has seven squads in the CIS Top 10.
As a team, Winnipeg’s strength has been its ability to limit the opposition’s attacking efficiency. This season, the Wesmen held their opposition to a .193 attacking percentage, which was third best in the conference.
Beyond that, Winnipeg was fifth in the conference in blocks, averaging 2.51 per set, and tied for fifth in kills with 12.27 per set.
Where the Wesmen struggled was on the offence, at least in terms of hitting percentage, as they were held to exactly the same percentage they allowed, at .193, which put them ninth in Canada West. Winnipeg was also finished ninth in digs, with 10.53 per set.
Individually, the Wesmen’s Brendan Black led the team in attack efficiency as he finished the year with a .372 hitting percentage, which was eighth best in the conference. Black also led the team in blocks with 1.16 per set (8th in CW). Tom Douglas-Powell led the team with 3.07 kills per set while six other regulars averaged more than one kill per set.
Setter Josh McKay finished the season averaging 9.74 assists per set (6th in CW) while libero Riley Delavau led the team in digs with 2.48 per set (8th in CW).
Since TWU moved to the Langley Events Centre, the Wesmen are 1-6 against the Spartans, with its lone win coming in their 2010 Canada West quarter-final playoff series.