TWU Spartans go to familiar territory for top ranked duo

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April 7, 2014, LANGLEY, British Columbia (ISN) – Trinity Western men’s volleyball coach Ben Josephson went back to a pair of familiar wells for his latest two recruits as the Spartans coach officially announced the signing of outside hitter Riley Vander Meulen of Edmonton Christian High School and left side/libero Carter Bergen of Winnipeg’s MCBI (Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute), who both are arguably the best graduating players from their respective provinces.

Bergen joins the Spartans after he was named to the top graduating high school player in Manitoba while Vander Meulen, by many people’s estimation, would have been atop his province’s list had Alberta conducted a similar poll.

Edmonton Christian has been a hotbed for future TWU men’s volleyball players as Vander Meulen follows in the footsteps of former Spartans Josh Doornenbal (graduated in 2011) and Lucas Van Berkel (2014) and current Spartan Levi Wolthuis. Similarly, Bergen comes to the Spartans on the same path that fellow MCBI graduates Adam Schriemer and Devyn Plett also once took en route to TWU.

Vander Meulen and Bergen add to an already distinguished 2014 Spartans recruiting class that includes Aaron Boettcher (Surrey, B.C.), who was ranked No. 2 in The Province newspapers poll of the best graduating players in B.C., Ben Lieuwen (Abbotsford, B.C.), who was No. 4 on that same list, and Braden Heppell (Langley), who came in at No. 8.

Carter Bergen (Winnipeg)

The 6-foot Bergen comes to TWU after an impressive career at both the high school level, with MCBI where he will graduate from this year, and at the club level, with the Winman Volleyball Club.

With MCBI, Bergen finished his high school career on an individual high as earned the Dennis Nord Award as MVP for Manitoba high school volleyball. At his final high school provincial championship tournament, he was named both an all-star and his peers also garnered the Players Choice Award, which is voted upon by fellow players.

As a team, Bergen won a “AAAA” high school provincial championship in Grade 11 and made it to the provincial semifinals in his Grade 12 campaign.

Bergen also won the Stefan Savoie Memorial Scholarship, which is given out to a Manitoba Grade 12 volleyball athlete, who best “represents the passion for the sport of volleyball as Savoie did in his life.” Savoie was a former member of Team Canada, who passed away in 2011.

With his club, Bergen won a 14U national championship and a 17U provincial championship. Following his 17U club season, he was named Manitoba’s Player of the Year.

“Carter is another athlete in what is becoming an impressive line of MBCI Hawks to join our program, following Adam and Devyn,” Josephson said. “Like Devyn before him, Carter was named the top player in Manitoba but was also selected for the Players Choice by his peers. This signals both his on-court performance as the top graduating player in Manitoba but also his selfless and admirable spirit recognized by his peers.

“You don’t have to watch Carter long before you see he has a special demeanour and strong leadership qualities. He comes to us as a left side player but we see his value as a libero where his ball skills and play making ability can be used in the back court full-time. He has an uncanny touch on the ball and can control the ball from all angles and body positions.

“While Carter’s game is impressive, I’m even more excited about his intangible qualities. His on-court leadership, his ability to get the most of his teammates and his stable emotional presence is something we hope to build our team around for the future. He is a special person and it is our pleasure to be his volleyball home for the next five years.”

Bergen, who plans to study psychology and law, said: “At TWU, they play some of the best volleyball in the country. And they do so within a Christian atmosphere where all the guys are so tight. You can’t ask for anything better.”

Riley Vander Meulen (Edmonton)

Vander Meulen, who will graduate this spring, arrives at TWU as the latest talent to join the Spartans via the Edmonton Christian pipeline. However, unlike the previous three Edmonton Christian graduates, who were all middles, Vander Meulen brings his 6-foot-8 frame to TWU as an outside hitter.

“At 6-foot-8, Riley possesses international size for the left side and is a very good ball-control player for an athlete of his size,” Josephson said. “He has a great range to his attack and will be a very efficient player. He has a great understanding of system volleyball and has a high volleyball IQ, which is one of the things we look for the most in our recruiting selections.

“Riley has a great spirit when he competes. He is a very kind young man who cares about his teammates and relishes in their successes. To that, he adds a competitive fire that drives him to make big play after big play in big games. To be special in this sport, an athlete has to rise above the situation to perform and Riley has done that at every level. He has high intangible characteristics and is the prototypical Spartan and a Complete Champion in the making.”

Vander Meulen, who played his club volleyball with NAVC (Northern Alberta Volleyball Club) from 13U to 15U and, more recently, FOG Volleyball Club from 16U to 18U, has already had a litany of on-court success. To his name, he has three provincial gold medals, a national silver medal, and, most recently, he was named a tournament all-star en route to winning a 17U national gold medal in 2013. He also won a silver medal with Team Alberta at last summer’s Western Elites.

With Edmonton Christian, Vander Meulen won a 4A silver medal in Grade 11 and a 4A bronze medal in Grade 12.

“I am very excited to become a part of the community at TWU,” said Vander Meulen, who plans to study human kinetics. “It seems like a great place to mature as a player and a person. I can’t wait to get to know and grow with some of the best players and coaches in the country.”

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