Oct 31, 2014

LANGLEY, British Columbia – The Trinity Western women’s volleyball team will get its first shot at the defending CIS champions as the Spartans host Manitoba this weekend at the Langley Events Centre.

The No. 4 Spartans take on the Bisons looking to snap a three-game losing streak that includes back-to-back losses to No.1 Alberta last weekend.

Friday’s game is at 6 p.m. and Saturday’s game is at 5 p.m. Both games can be seen live at www.canadawest.tv.

CIS ranking: No. 4
Canada West Standings: 4th (tied)
Last weekend: Alberta 3-1 L, 3-0 L
Streak: 3 losses
2013-14 Canada West Record: 17-5, 2nd
2013-14 Canada West Tournament: 3-1, 3rd
2013-14 CIS Tournament: 2-1, 5th

Through the first three weeks, the Spartans may be stuck with a .500 record, but it could be argued that they’ve already played two of the top three teams in the country. The Spartans split with now No. 3 UBCO before losing twice against No. 1 Alberta.

Now, with the defending CIS champions in town – albeit one that is missing a few key members from last year’s winning team – the Spartans will look to break out of a three-game losing streak.

After two weeks on the road, the Spartans return to the Langley looking forward to enjoying the friendly confines of the Langley Events Centre. The Spartans are 2-0 at home this year and, going back to last year and including the playoffs, are riding an 11-game winning streak on home court. The last time TWU hosted Manitoba, the Spartans beat the Bisons 3-0 and 3-1 in 2013-13.

With the likes of Katelyn Devaney (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) and Alicia Perrin (Creston, B.C.) patrolling the middle and Casie Gano (Sundre, Alta.) leading the way on the outside, the Spartans block has been by far the best in Canada West. TWU is averaging 3.28 blocks per set, which is 0.69 better than any other team in the conference. The second-year Devaney has a conference-leading 1.72 blocks per set, while Perrin is fifth with 1.36 per set and Gano is eighth with 1.00 per set. Devaney had a season-high 11 blocks in TWU’s second match against UBC Okanagan.

The Spartans have managed a .500 record despite sitting last in the conference in hitting percentage through six games, at .116. Even a minor improvement on that percentage will see a dramatic improvement on the court. With just 10.24 kills per set, which has TWU 11th in the conference, it’s obvious that TWU has plenty of room for progress.

CIS ranking: NR
Canada West Standings: 9th (tied)
Last weekend: UBC Okanagan 3-1 L, 3-0 L
Streak: 2 losses
2013-14 Canada West Record: 14-8, 4th
2013-14 Canada West Tournament: 3-1, 2nd
2013-14 CIS Tournament: 3-0, 1st

They may be the defending CIS champions, but this year’s team isn’t quite the same as they came into this year without a number of key players, including Taylor Pischke, Crystal Mulder and Emily Erickson.

However, despite just possessing two wins through their first six matches, the Bisons still have one of the top outside hitters in the conference in Rachel Cockrell and one of the best setters in Canada West in Brittany Habing and will no doubt be a dangerous foe.

It’s early in the season, but the Bisons have quickly proven how strong they are from the baseline. Manitoba already has 50 aces and is averaging a Canada West leading 2.08 aces per set. However, most of those aces came in the first three matches when Manitoba averaged three aces per set. Over the course of the Bisons last three matches they have averaged just 0.73 per set.

Last year, Emily Erickson led the Bisons with 1.64 blocks per set and was fourth in the conference. This year, Manitoba, as a team, is only averaging 1.54 blocks per set. In their last outing against UBC Okanagan, Manitoba had a season-low three blocks. The Bisons best night so far blocking was the night before against the Heat when they collected nine blocks.

Despite missing some important players from last year’s CIS gold medal winning roster, the Bisons are still the defending champions and expectations were relatively high entering the year. So, far, Manitoba is still looking to realize a rhythm. Two losses against Calgary to start the season put Manitoba in an early hole. Most recently, following a weekend sweep of one-win Regina, the Bisons lost back-to-back games against UBCO. It doesn’t get any easier this weekend as they look to find a groove at the midpoint of the first semester.