EDMONTON – In a battle of the top two teams in the CIS, the Trinity Western men’s volleyball team came up just short as the Spartans built a 2-0 lead, only to see No.
1 Alberta rally to win 3-2 (25-22, 25-15, 26-24, 25-15, 15-13) Friday at the Saville Community Sports Center.
Playing without injured fifth-year left side Nick Del Bianco (Surrey, B.C.), TWU claimed the first two sets and then, at 24-21, had three shots at match point in the third set. However, Alberta tallied five straight points, including three kills from Ryan Nickifor, to win the set 26-24.
The Bears then raced out to an 11-1 lead in the fourth set and went on to win by 10 points and in the fifth set, Alberta never trailed and, with Ryley Barnes 26th kill of the night completed the comeback.
For the Bears, it was Barnes leading the way in a variety of areas as he also had 11 digs and five blocks to go with his 26 kills. Nickifor added 13 kills while John Goranson was a beast at the net, earning 14 blocks.
Alberta out-blocked TWU with 20.5 blocks to the Spartans 13 and also finished with a .203 hitting percentage to TWU’s .141.
“It was a tough, tough loss tonight,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “It was a good battle. We had a good start and I thought we were playing fine. I don’t think Alberta was playing great, so that’s why I think the first two sets went that way. But then they really started playing well.
“We had some tough performances and the guys did a good job fighting for it, but we just weren’t really crisp and clean. To beat a team like that in their own gym, we’re going to have to be a little crisper and cleaner than we were in every phase. I thought our techniques broke down under pressure and that’s where we lost some points. I was impressed with the fight and heart that we showed and we’re going to need that again tomorrow night.”
The first set began with TWU and Alberta on an even playing field as neither team took more than a three-point lead. However, the Spartans took over late and nabbed the first set 25-22. During the set, the teams were almost dead even with blocks with TWU earning a slight lead at 3.5 compared to Alberta’s three. TWU’s hitting percentage was also slightly better than Alberta’s, at .296 percent against the Bears .226 percent.
The second set started much like the first, with both teams trading points and keeping things close. However TWU was able to further the distance in scoring towards the middle of the set, opening up a 15-10 lead. As the set moved closer to the end, the Spartans were able to pull away and went on to win the set 25-15. TWU bettered their hitting percentage greatly in the second set as it hit .471 percent. Tyler Heppell (Langley, B.C.) claimed three aces during the set.
The third set was the tightest yet, with Alberta gaining slight momentum and putting the pressure on the Spartans. The Spartans looked primed to take the set and claim the win as they held a 24-21 lead. But then Alberta roared back with a 5-0 run that changed the course of the contest.
The fourth set had Alberta’s name written all over it from the outset. The set started with TWU gaining the first point but Alberta answered with 11 consecutive points after that. The Spartans never got close and the set ended in the Bears favor, 25-15. The Bears had a remarkable 10 blocks in the fourth set alone.
In the fifth set, Alberta’s Barnes got a kill for the first point and the Bears never trailed. Barnes had a whopping seven kills in the fifth set to lead the Bears to the 15-13 win.
Match Notes: TWU hit (45-27-128) compared to Alberta who hit (59-29-128)…TWU had six aces to 11 serving errors while Alberta had two aces to 20 serving errors.