TWU Spartans rally to win five-setter over UBCO

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by Mark Janzen

January 17, 2014, LANGLEY, British Columbia (ISN) – After trailing 2-1 following the third set, the No. 2 Trinity Western men’s volleyball team rallied to beat UBC Okanagan 3-2 (25-15, 22-25, 19-25, 25-17, 15-9) Friday at the Langley Events Centre.

The Spartans dominated the first set, but the match turned UBCO’s way in the second and third sets as the visitors neutralized the Spartans block and serve. However TWU simplified its game in the fourth and fifth sets and continued to play an efficient style, hitting .440 in the fourth set alone, as the Spartans earned the comeback win.

With the victory, TWU extends its winning streak to seven games and improves its record to 14-1. After beating then No. 3 UBC last weekend, the Heat gave the second ranked team an impressive run but in the end the loss drops its record to 4-11.

The Spartans hit .381 as a team but the top ace and block team in the conference only collected six blocks and five aces. The Heat hit .261 and had eight aces and seven blocks.

Trinity Western was led by Brad Kufske (Abbotsford, B.C.), who had 16 kills while Nick Del Bianco (Surrey, B.C.) had 14 kills and three aces and Lucas Van Berkel (Edmonton) had 10 kills and four blocks. Derek Thiessen (Coquitlam, B.C.) added eight kills with just one error while setter Adam Schriemer (Winnipeg) had a match-high 40 assists and Tyler Koslowsky (Abbotsford) had a match-high nine digs.

The Heat was led by Nate Speijer, who had 14 kills, two aces and two blocks. UBCO had four different players with eight kills including Jim Bell, Lars Bornemann, Alex Swiatlowski and Chris Wilson. Bell also had a team-high four blocks.

“We talked about it all week that they are better than their record,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “Last weekend they proved it against the No. 3 team in the country and tonight they almost proved it again with a win over the No. 2 team. They’re just super young and they’re inconsistent. But they’re starting to play up to their talent and tonight we saw how dangerous that Heat team can be.

“They were hot and played well but at the same time, I had a poor game plan. I didn’t adjust out of our plan quick enough and that, combined with losing the serve and pass game, caused this one to go five. The serve and pass game is what we dominate in our gym. But tonight, we just couldn’t stop them. We were efficient but they stopped two of our big scoring element, aces and blocks, from scoring.

“At the end of the day, we still had some good performances and I thought Derek was one of the key players who stepped up. That was his best game of the season.”

With three straight kills from Van Berkel early in the first set, TWU built a 4-1 lead and never looked back. The Spartans continued to stretch their lead throughout the set and after a Thiessen ace went ahead 11-4. The Spartans never let up and a Blake Scheerhoorn (Belleville, Ont.) ace gave TWU the set 25-15. In an efficient set for both sides, TWU hit .407 as a team while UBCO hit .300.

Trinity Western opened a 7-5 lead early in the second set only to see UBCO respond with four straight points to take a 9-7 edge. The Heat never trailed the rest of the way. The Heat’s Speijer collected three kills for the second set in a row to help UBCO to a three-point win. Speijer gave UBCO a 23-19 lead but the Spartans scored three straight points to make it 23-22. However a TWU serving error followed by a UBCO block from Bell and Bornemann gave the Heat the set.

With momentum on its side, the Heat scored the first two points of the third set and held a lead from start to finish. Hitting .379 as a team, UBCO held off the Spartans to earn a six-point win. A Speijer kill gave the Heat an 11-6 lead and UBCO maintained at least a four point edge the rest of the way. A UBCO block gave the Heat a 24-17 lead and after a pair of TWU points, a Swiatlowski kill ended the set.

In the fourth set, the Spartans took a 6-1 lead after a Del Bianco ace and that was the sign of things to come. The Spartans motored along throughout the set, collecting 14 kills while committing just three errors on 25 attempts. Up 24-17, Del Bianco finished the set with his sixth kill of the set.

Similar to the fourth set, the fifth set was all TWU early as a pair of blocks from Van Berkel helped the Spartans to a 5-0 lead. UBCO never got closer than two points. A Kufske kill made it 13-7 and shortly thereafter, Del Bianco found the pot off the left side to earn the 15-9 win.

The Spartans and Heat meet in the rematch Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Langley Events Centre.

Game Notes: The Spartans are now 2-1 in five-set matches this year. They beat Manitoba but lost to Calgary.

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