Spartans earn four-set win over visiting T-Birds

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October 25, 2013, LANGLEY, British Columbia (ISN) – The No. 3 Trinity Western men’s volleyball team eeked out a four-set (30-28, 25-20, 22-25, 27-25) win over No. 5 UBC in its season-opener Friday at the Langley Events Centre.

With the Thunderbirds up 15-7 in the first set, UBC setter Milan Nikic left the game with a leg injury and his absence changed the entire complexion of the match. With Nikic out, the Spartans rallied from down eight points to win the first set and then took the second set in tidy fashion before being forced to fourth set, where they once again edged UBC by just two points.

In what was a rather scrappy match, the Spartans finished with a .244 hitting percentage to UBC’s .159 while TWU had an 11-7 edge in blocks. The Spartans won despite 23 serving errors to UBC’s 13.

Trinity Western was led by Nick Del Bianco (Surrey, B.C.), who had 18 kills, five aces and five blocks. Brad Kufske (Abbotsford, B.C.) added 15 kills while Lucas Van Berkel (Edmonton) had 10 kills and a match-high seven blocks. Second-year Scott Plocktis (Kelowna, B.C.) had 32 assists while first-year setter Adam Schriemer (Winnipeg) added 12 assists.

The T-Birds, who were forced to use libero Ian Perry as their setter for contest, were led by Ben Chow, who had 16 kills and three blocks while Alex Russell had 10 kills and four blocks. Perry finished with 29 assists and eight digs.

The Spartans and T-Birds will play the second half of their home-and-home series Saturday at UBC at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed live at twu.canadawest.tv 

“That was a really sloppy game,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “Frankly, with the lineup they had on the floor, that’s what they wanted. With the best setter in the country (Nikic) out and their junior national right side (Jarrid Ireland) is in a walking boot, they turned it into a dirty volleyball game that was more about hustle and hard work and heart and those guys have tons of that. I don’t know if we matched it. We were the better in-system team and they were the better out-of-system team. That’s why every set was tight.

“I don’t know that we dictated this game the way we needed to. We just made enough lucky plays to get the win.

In the first set, with the score tied 6-6, the T-Birds went on a 7-1 run that put the T-Birds up 15-7 and seemingly in control. However, when Nikic left the game, the T-Birds sagged and the Spartans responded. With a Van Berkel kill, TWU tied the match 17-17 to cap a 10-2 run. After that it was back and forth until TWU finally ended it with back-to-back blocks to win 30-28. Both offences struggled, with UBC hitting .086 and TWU hitting .026 in the first set.

“I liked our game for the most part,” Del Bianco said. “We had a few slow starts but I think we responded well when we were down. We have to force the issue a bit more tomorrow and that’s something we’ll have to change.”

In the second set, the T-Birds built a 19-16 lead. However, the Spartans roared back with a 7-0 run, sparked by a kill-block-kill series from Van Berkel. From there, TWU rolled to a five-point win with Derek Thiessen earning the winning kill. In stark contrast to the first set, TWU hit .464 as a team and had just three errors compared to 11 in the opening set.

The teams went back and forth throughout the third set up until 20-20. With a Mat Guidi kill, the T-Birds launched a 3-0 run that opened a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. A kill from Chow gave UBC its first set of the night.

The fourth set was similar to the third as neither team took any more than a two-point lead throughout. With UBC up 21-19, the Spartans earned two quick points out of a timeout and forced the T-Birds into taking their first timeout of the set. From there, the teams traded points until 25-25. Then, with a UBC serving error followed by a T-Birds attacking error, the Spartans escaped with the set and the match.

Game Notes: The Spartans had seven aces to UBC’s two…TWU had 45 digs to UBC’s 42.