LANGLEY, British Columbia – First-year Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) led the No. 1-ranked Spartans with 14 kills, five aces and three blocks as Trinity Western completed a Canada West quarter-final sweep of No. 9 Winnipeg with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-20) win in Game 2 Friday at the Langley Events Centre. With the win, the Spartans advanced to the Canada West Final Four and earned a ticket to the U SPORTS national championship.
The defending conference and national champion Spartans put on an impressive showing, beating a strong Winnipeg side in three sets and holding the Wesmen to a .108 hitting percentage. The Spartans hit .275 as a team, with Loeppky hitting .455 himself.
TWU will travel to Winnipeg for the Final Four next weekend where they will face long-time rival Alberta in the conference semifinals at the University of Manitoba. With all four Canada West Final Four teams earning a spot at nationals, the Spartans have also secured a spot in the U SPORTS championship, which are in Edmonton Mar. 17-19. The semifinal match with Alberta marks a rematch of last year’s semifinal, which saw TWU upset the No. 1-ranked Golden Bears 3-0.
With the Spartans first opportunity at match-point, TWU middle Aaron Boettcher (Surrey, B.C.) put a thunderous exclamation point on the series with a bomb over the middle that ended the series in empathic fashion.
“Sclater put it really well last weekend at senior weekend when he said that we love this team and we love being together,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “One of the thoughts we had heading into this weekend was that this could be our last weekend together. But if we play well enough, we can earn some more time together. I really think that means a lot to these guys. They really enjoy being together and now we get to go on the road and compete for two potential banners. That’s what we’ve trained for all year and it’s cool to get a chance to compete for those things, but more importantly, we get to spend two more weeks together.”
Beyond Loeppky, who finished with 21 points, TWU fifth-year Ryan Sclater (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) had 13 kills to go with a match-high nine digs, while setter Adam Schriemer (Winnipeg) had 34 assists and seven digs.
Casey Schouten had nine kills and five aces to lead Winnipeg, while Brendan Thielmann added seven kills.
“We knew that was going to be really hard and that serving run that Casey made in the first set was what we were expecting from him and we were trying our best to keep that ball in play, but he’s just that good,” Josephson said. “Thanks goodness we have three or four servers who are capable of that as well. We didn’t have any one server match him, but we had three or four servers match it. We caught that run from Aaron right after him to not let that first set get away. We play a drill in practice and it’s all about that exact situation. If you give up a run, you have to catch a run right after. So that was the mindset and we caught a run. Then in the second set, we caught a nice run and in the third set we caught another nice run. That wasn’t easy, but we knew it was going to be hard and the kids did a great job.”
TWU is now 10-1 all-time on home court in the postseason against Winnipeg and 11-3 overall in playoff matches.
The first set was tight in the early stages until Schouten went to the serving line and helped Winnipeg turn a 7-7 tie into an 11-7 lead. But after the Wesmen had built their lead to 15-8, the Spartans Boettcher served TWU back into the set, guiding the home side to a 7-0 run that tied the set 15-15. The teams traded points until 20-20, when TWU took over, scoring five of the last seven points to win the set. Despite Winnipeg hitting .227 compared to TWU’s .212, the Spartans escaped with the win.
In the second set, a Blake Scheerhoorn (Belleville, Ont.) serving run put TWU up 15-8. From there, TWU, who hit .370 in the set, rolled to a nine-point win, which was capped by back-to-back kills from Sclater.
The third set was something of a Loeppky showcase, as the youngster collected seven kills, three blocks and an ace to lead TWU to a five-point win. After Winnipeg went up 11-9, Schriemer served the Spartans to the technical timeout via a 7-0 run. Winnipeg was never closer than three points the rest of the way and with consecutive kills from Boettcher, TWU sealed the win.
Game Notes: The Spartans will head to the University of Manitoba looking to advance to the conference championship game for the fifth consecutive year…TWU won silver in 2013, 2014 and 2015 before winning gold last year…the Spartans split with Alberta in this year’s regular season series in Edmonton, with the Bears winning 3-1 before TWU won 3-0.