Spartans cap record regular season with win over Winnipeg

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by Mark Janzen

February 8, 2014, LANGLEY, British Columbia (ISN) – The No. 2 Trinity Western men’s volleyball knocked off Winnipeg 3-1 (25-15, 25-15, 23-25, 25-22) Saturday at the Langley Events Centre to collect its 20th win of the year and earn its first 20-win season in program history.

The victory puts a wrap on the second best regular season ever put together, in terms of winning percentage, by a Spartans men’s volleyball team. This year’s record is only bettered by the CIS national championship winning team from 2011-12, which finished the regular season with a 19-1 record.

Just like the 2011-12 year, the Spartans earned top spot in Canada West and the right to host the Final Four, which will be played Feb. 21-22 at the Langley Events Centre.

Similar to Friday’s four-set win over Winnipeg, the Spartans played well for two sets but then struggled in two sets.

The Spartans looked dominant in the first two sets, winning 25-15 twice and appeared set to make it a short night. But Winnipeg pushed back in the third and fourth sets as the visitors won the third before TWU escaped with a win in a tight fourth set.

On a night when TWU honoured graduating seniors Lucas Van Berkel (Edmonton), Brad Kufske (Abbotsford, B.C.) and Derek Thiessen (Coquitlam, B.C.), it was those three that led the Spartans attack. Kufske had a team-high 12 kills while Thiessen added 10 kills and Van Berkel had nine kills. Van Berkel also finished with a match-high five blocks.

Van Berkel capped his Canada West regular season career with 407 blocks, which is the second best mark in Canada West history, trailing only Joseph Brooks, who had 414 blocks while with Manitoba.

“Tonight was really all about the seniors,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “Thiessen was fantastic. Lucas dominated as usual and Brad had a really good match.”

The Wesmen were led offensively by Tom Douglas-Powell, who had 14 kills while Casey Schouten added 12 kills. Setter Josh McKay had 33 assists to go with a match-high 11 digs. Matthew Dueck had a team-high four blocks.

As a team, TWU had nine aces to Winnipeg’s three, while also earning an 11-5 edge in blocks.

“Just like last night, we played two good sets and two bad sets,” Josephson said. “We’ve played a good first, second, third and fourth set, but over two nights.”

In the first set TWU took a 12-8 lead and maintained its edge the rest of the way. Winnipeg got within two points at 13-11, but TWU responded with three straight points to make it 16-11. From there, TWU, hitting .286 compared to Winnipeg’s .167, ran away with the set, winning by 10.

Like the first set, the Spartans broke open the second set just before the technical timeout. With TWU up10-8, the Spartans went on a 6-2 run to go up 16-10 at the technical timeout. The Spartans pulled away for a 25-15 win with a Thiessen kill ending the set.

“I think we lost focus in the third set,” Josephson said. “Winnipeg was playing the last set of their season and it looked like it. They were desperate and played great and we didn’t match the intensity of the set. And sometimes we stop playing smart,” Josephson said. “We’re not good enough anymore to get ourselves out of trouble by being physical because everybody else is so good.”

The Spartans went up 15-10 in the third set and looked en route to ending the match in a hurry. But Winnipeg wasn’t having any of it. With Schouten giving TWU fits from the service line, the Wesmen scored five straight to tie it 15-15. Then, with the score tied again 23-23, Winnipeg extended its season by scoring the next two points, the second coming from a Schouten ace, to win 25-23. Despite TWU hitting .286 as a team to Winnipeg’s .250, it was the Wesmen forcing a fourth set.

In the fourth set, the Spartans took a 19-15 lead, but once again struggled to close it out. Winnipeg tied it up 20-20 and then again at 21-21. But TWU earned three straight points to get its first crack at set and match point. And on TWU’s second attempt, the Spartans earned the win after a Wesmen serving error. Like the third set, it was the losing side with the better attack percentage as Winnipeg hit .267 in the fourth while TWU hit .167.

Game Notes: Winnipeg had 46 digs to TWU’s 36…TWU hit .305 as a team while Winnipeg hit .244