No. 2 TWU Spartans woman’s volleyball hosts Pandas Fri, Sat

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November 6, 2013, LANGLEY, British Columbia (ISN) – The No. 2 Trinity Western women’s volleyball team will look to climb above .500 for the first time this year and improve on its two-game winning streak this weekend when it hosts Alberta Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Langley Events Centre.

Both matches will be streamed live at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/twu.portal# 

The Spartans, who opened the season with back-to-back losses to No. 1 UBC, are coming off a weekend sweep on the road against Saskatchewan, while the Pandas enter this weekend’s two-match set coming off a split with Brandon at home.

Trinity Western has won its last three meetings with Alberta, which includes a five-set win in last year’s regular season finale, a four-set win in last year’s conference semifinal and a three-set win in this year’s preseason.

The Pandas and Spartans split their weekend series last year in Edmonton, with Alberta winning 3-1 and TWU winning 3-2.

TRINITY WESTERN SPARTANS (2-2)

  • CIS ranking: No. 2
  • Canada West Standings: 5th (tied)
  • Last Weekend: Saskatchewan 3-1, W; 3-1, W
  • Streak: 2 wins
  • 2012-13 conference record: 19-3 (2nd)
  • 2013 playoffs: 3-1 (silver)
  • 2013 CIS tournament: 2-1 (bronze)

After opening the season with two straight losses to No. 1 UBC, the Spartans found their form last weekend when they travelled to Saskatoon and earned back-to-back four-set wins. In their wins, the Spartans looked impressive, taking each set by an average of 8.5 points. The Spartans won the first set in Saturday’s tilt by just two points, but beyond that, the closest Saskatchewan got in a loss was six points.

However, on the flip side, the Spartans early season inconsistency – something that plagued them against the Thunderbirds – was also evident in Saskatoon. The losses suffered were by 11 points and five points. If coach Ryan Hofer’s team – one that’s still looking to solidify a starting unit – is to get on an early season run, consistency is paramount.

Through four matches, albeit two of which came against top-ranked UBC, the Spartans are hitting just .141 as a team (10th in Canada West). Fortunately for TWU, its defence, and particularly its blocking, has held opponents to a .144 hitting percentage (3rd in CW) while collecting 2.67 blocks per set (4th in CW).

Individually, the Spartans have been led by middle-turned-sometimes-right-side Alicia Perrin (Creston, B.C.), who posted a career-high 23 kills in Saturday’s win over Saskatchewan. Perrin has averaged 3.33 kills per set while still maintaining impressive blocking numbers with 1.20 blocks per set (8th in CW). Her combined numbers have her sixth in the conference in points with 4.00 per set.

First-year middle Katelyn Devaney (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) has got off to a strong start as she enters the weekend fourth in Canada West in blocks with 1.38 per set. Meanwhile last year’s Canada West Libero of the Year Kristen Moncks (Standard, Alta.) is third in the conference with 3.87 digs per set.

At this stage, the setting position is likely the biggest question mark for TWU. Fourth-year Lauren Moncks (Standard, Alta.) started the first three matches of the year and averaged 6.75 assists per set. However, first-year Vanessa Cornwall (Coquitlam, B.C.) started Saturday’s match and collected a Spartans season-high 38 assists. How Hofer deploys his setters this weekend will certainly be something to watch.

ALBERTA PANDAS (1-3)

  • CIS rankings: NR
  • Canada West Standings: 9th (tied)
  • Last Weekend: Brandon 3-0, W; 3-0, L
  • Streak: 1 loss
  • 2012-13 conference record: 15-7 (3rd)
  • 2013 CW playoffs: 3-1 (bronze)
  • 2013 CIS tournament: 2-1 (silver)

After losing four starters from last year’s CIS silver medal-winning lineup, Alberta came into this season looking to reload with a vastly different, and certainly much younger, lineup.

With the likes of Jaki Ellis, a perennial All-Canadian, Alyssa Jones, Lia Stang and Krista Zubick all departing, the Pandas have turned to a bevy of youngsters to carry the load this season. Of the Pandas 16-players on their roster, 10 are either in their first or second years of eligibility.

So far this year, the Alberta offence has been led by second-year players Meg Cassault, Karly Janssen and Kacey Otto, the latter of which was named to the 2012-13 CIS All-Rookie Team.

Through four matches, Cassault leads the Pandas with 4.00 kills per set (4th in Canada West) while Janssen has averaged 2.79 per set and Otto, who is the daughter of former NHLer Joel Otto, has 2.57 per set.

The biggest change for Alberta is at the setting position, where the Pandas lost both parts of their setting combination, in Ellis and Jones. This year, third-year Annie Abbott has taken over the reins of the offence and has averaged 7.38 assists per set (10th in CW).

Defensively, third-year libero Jessie Niles, who is one of the few starting holdovers from last year’s roster, has averaged 3.64 digs per set (tied for 5th in CW).

As a team, it’s been a struggle for the young Pandas. Through four matches, they are hitting just .140 (11th in CW) while allowing the opposition to hit .216 (10th in CW). Alberta is averaging 11.36 kills per set (5th in CW), but its blocking has yet to find its form, averaging 1.64 blocks per set (10th in CW).

The Pandas have also seen a stark contrast at the serving line compared to last year. After averaging 2.26 aces per set in 2012-13, this year, the Pandas are averaging just 1.14 (10th in CW).

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