EDMONTON – The No.1 ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears volleyball team was simply too much for the CIS second ranked Trinity Western Spartans, as Alberta picked up a 3-1 win (25-21, 25-21, 20-25, 25-19) on Saturday night at the Saville Community Sports Centre to earn the weekend sweep.
With the win, the defending national champion Golden Bears improve to 6-0 on the season, while the previously unbeaten Spartans fall to 4-2.
Alberta recorded an impressive 60 kills on the night on 123 attacks which paced the team to an attack percentage of .260. TWU, meanwhile, put down 39 kills on Saturday on 104 attempts, for a team attacking percentage of .163. The Spartans did out-block their hosts, 17.5 to 10, but didn’t generate much beyond their wall, including just four aces to the Bears seven. The Spartans were playing without their ace outside hitter, fifth-year Nicholas Del Bianco (Surrey, B.C.), who was missing in action due to injury.
Ryley Barnes continued his tour de force play of late as he cranked out a match-high 22 kills on Saturday to lead Alberta. The fourth-year left-side finished his weekend with 48 kills, including his 500th conference kill, two aces and 19 digs, which gives him 77 kills, five aces and 29 digs in his last 15 sets, as well as 519 career conference kills in his time with the Golden Bears.
The Spartans were paced by 12 kills from Branden Schmidt (De Winton, Alta.), but also received eight kills from Blake Scheerhoorn. Vander Meulen came off the bench late to pick up four kills as well. Daniel Grant (Chetwynd, B.C.) had a match-high 10 blocks.
“It was a good chance for us to evaluate where we are at compared to the No. 1 team in the country,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “There were some good lessons for us and obviously we have some work to do, but fortunately we have some time to do it. We’re excited to go back to work and clean up some things that got exposed a bit. I thought it was a really gutsy weekend for the guys. We competed well and battled well in a really tough environment against a really great team.”
One night after staging an incredible come-from-behind five set win, after Alberta was down 2-0 in sets, and facing 24-21 in the third, the Bears picked up right where they left off against TWU, winning the first two sets by identical 25-21 scores.
The Spartans, however, roared to life in the third set as they jumped out to a massive lead in the early going, and simply played side-out volleyball the rest of the way, winning the penultimate set 25-20 to force a fourth.
But the Bears were not going to be denied the victory, nor were they going to allow TWU to craft a comeback like Alberta did on Friday night. Right from the opening of the fourth set, the Evergreen and Gold set the tone as setter Brett Walsh powered an ace past TWU which sparked a quick run of points for the home side.
Although TWU was able to settle into the match, and even fought back from a seven-point deficit, thanks to the injection of Riley Vander Meulen at the outside hitter position, the Bears had generated too much momentum to be slowed down. Alberta picked up some more momentum late in the fourth, with a series of incredible digs and great rallies, on a point it eventually won, which prompted the crowd to rise up out of their seats to cheer the Bears onto the match win.
Ryan Nickifor and John Goranson were also very strong for the Bears on Saturday, as Nickifor put back 16 kills on the night and Goranson, the fourth-year middle, banked 10 kills. The Bears also got three aces from middle Taylor Arnett, as well as two from Walsh, while CIS rookie, and member of the Australian national program, Alex McMullin showed well in his first career CIS start, finishing with seven kills, one ace, seven digs and a block.
Alberta gets back at it next weekend when they travel to Calgary to take on the Dinos, while the Spartans return home to Langley to host the Manitoba Bisons.