LANGLEY, British Columbia – With a strong returning core, the defending U Sports (formerly CIS) champion Trinity Western men’s volleyball team will open its season this weekend, as the No. 2-ranked Spartans start the journey to get back to the national dance.
Led by the “Big Four” of Ryan Sclater (Port Coquitlam, B.C.), Blake Scheerhoorn (Belleville, Ont.), Adam Schriemer (Winnipeg) and Aaron Boettcher (Surrey, B.C.), the Spartans have as good of a core as any team in the country and will once again be expected to challenge for the national banner.
The Spartans open their regular season on the road against Regina Friday and Saturday. Both games can be seen live at www.canadawest.tv.
On the outside, much will be expected of the duo of Sclater, who is in his fifth year of eligibility, and the fourth-year Scheerhoorn. Sclater led TWU with 4.07 kills per set last year while Scheerhoorn was the MVP at the national championship tournament. Beyond them, the Spartans outside depth is likely the envy of most teams in the country as the likes of Scott Plocktis (Kelowna, B.C.), Jacob Kern (Edmonton), Ben Lieuwen (Abbotsford, B.C.) and Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) will all be battling for playing time.
Boettcher, who led Canada West with 1.30 blocks per set last year, will once again lead the way in the middle. In last year’s conference post-season, he led Canada West with 1.89 blocks per set and is seemingly only getting better. He will be accompanied by the combo of fifth-year Leigh Goossen (Kelowna) and second-year Pearce Eshenko (Banff, Alta.).
After taking over the setting duties on a full-time basis down the stretch last year, Schriemer once again proved his dominance. He helped take a sputtering Spartans side that possessed a midseason 9-9 record and turn them into national champions. He’s one of the best setters in U Sports and will guide one of the best offences in the country. Behind Schriemer will be first-year Maddux Greves (Calgary), who has already proven that he is a star in the making.
The libero position is the only position in which TWU lost a player due to graduation, with Tyler Koslowsky (Abbotsford, B.C.) departing for the National Training Centre. However, with both Carter Bergen (Winnipeg) and Mark Antoniuk (Langley) vying for time, the Spartans look to be just fine. Koslowsky will be missed, but with both Bergen and Antoniuk taking steps forward in their development, the Spartans libero position will likely remain amongst the best in the conference.
TWU coach Ben Josephson said: “I think the team is hungry. Last year was the first year of a three-year window for this group and that was a prep year. The plan was for this to be our first year to make a run and next year is when we’re maybe at our best. Fortunately, we had a really great spring last year and we knew that we’d be good in April, but thank goodness we were good enough in March. And that’s carried over into the fall. We had our best preseason training camp and we had a great fall window.
“They don’t look like a team that won last year. They look like a team that is trying to win this year.”
BY THE NUMBERS
2015-16 CW regular season record: 14-10, 7th
2015-16 post-season record: 4-1, 1st
Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2016 / 3
Last CIS championship / total CIS championships: 2016 / 4
2015 CW regular season ranks:
Points per set: 16.3, 3rd
Kills per set: 12.41, 7th
Hitting percentage: .286, 3rd
2015 CW regular season leaders:
Kills: 4.07/set – Ryan Sclater, Left Side
Digs: 2.66 – Tyler Koslowsky, Libero
Blocks: 1.30 – Aaron Boettcher, Middle
Aces: 0.30 – Blake Scheerhoorn, Left Side
Assists: 9.04 – Devyn Plett, Setter
Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):
Eric Loeppky / Outside / 1 / Steinbach, Man. / Steinbach Regional
Kaden Gamache / Outside / Abbotsford, B.C. / MEI
Maddux Greves / Setter / Calgary / William Aberhart
Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):
Tyler Koslowsky / Libero / Abbotsford, B.C. / 5