TORONTO – The Trinity Western Spartans enter the 2017 U SPORTS Women’s Volleyball Championship has one goal in mind: winning its second national championship in three years. Despite being the seventh seed in the tournament, this year’s Spartans group is every bit as talented as any other women’s volleyball side in TWU’s illustrious history and there are plenty of reasons to believe they once again win it all.
The Spartans open up their 2017 U SPORTS Women’s Volleyball Championship against OUA champion McMaster Friday at 9 a.m. (PT) at Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre.
TWU SPARTANS | U SPORTS CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
By the Numbers – Regular Season Statistics
Team Statistics (U SPORTS Ranking)
Kills Per Set – 12.86 – 1st
Hitting Percentage – .238 – 2nd
Assists Per Set – 11.99 – 1st
Aces Per Set – 2.42 – 3rd
Digs Per Set – 12.67 – 31st
Blocks Per Set – 2.62 – 2nd
Points Per Set – 17.9 – 1st
Individual Leaders (U SPORTS Ranking)
Kills Per Set – Sophie Carpentier – 4.22 (4th)
Hitting Percentage – Sophie Carpentier – .301 (9th)
Assists Per Set – Nikki Cornwall – 10.59 (1st)
Aces Per Set – Sophie Carpentier – 0.58 (4th)
Digs Per Set – Rachel Flink – 2.46 (75th)
Blocks Per Set – Ashtyn McKenzie – 1.08 (8th)
Points Per Set – Sophie Carpentier – 5.1 (5th)
TWU SPARTANS PREVIEW
The Spartans are a veteran group that on paper might just be the best side TWU has ever put on the floor. With Sophie Carpentier and Elly Wendel anchoring the attack from the outside and setter Nikki Cornwall delivering the ball, the Spartans are as dangerous offensively as the program has ever been. The statistics backed that up this year, as TWU led U SPORTS in kills per set (12.86), assists per set (11.99) and points per set (17.9) and was second in hitting percentage (.238) and blocks per set (2.62).
While TWU enters this year’s tournament as the seventh seed, it’s likely there has never been a stronger seventh seed in the championship’s history. TWU was ranked in the top five of the weekly coaches’ poll throughout the entire season, finishing at No. 4. A loss to UBC in the Canada West semifinal forced TWU to earn a berth into the national championship tournament with a win over UBC Okanagan in the conference’s bronze medal match.
Despite a third-place finish at the conference championships, TWU comes into the national tournament with its eyes squarely set on a third consecutive appearance in the U SPORTS gold medal match. After a program best 21-win regular season and a 3-1 post-season record, TWU has the talent to do just that. The Spartans starting unit features five players who are in at least their fourth year of eligibility with Wendel and Carpentier in their fifth years, which means that this is the year to do it. Last year, TWU came up short in the gold medal match against Toronto. This year, the Spartans are built to complete unfinished business.
One would be hard-pressed to find a better outside and opposite combination in Canada than what TWU possesses in Carpentier and Wendel. The fifth-year stars were named Canada West First Team All-Stars and did so with flying colours. Carpentier finished the year with 4.22 kills per set for a total of 350 kills, which is the best single-season kill total in TWU’s history and the seventh best in conference history. She also set the Spartans record with 422.5 total points and the TWU record for aces in a season, with 48 – the latter of which is the second highest total in Canada West history. Meanwhile, Wendel, who played with Canada’s senior women’s team last summer, averaged 3.70 kills per set and 0.48 aces per set.
Beyond the leading duo, Brie O’Reilly was a critical piece for TWU. She played on the outside this year, but has the all-around skills that make her not only TWU’s third outside option but also the Spartans back-up setter and back-up libero. First-year Hillary Howe has been a strong contributor off the bench.
Cornwall led Canada West with 10.59 assists per set and was named a Canada West First Team All-Star. Her assists per set average was the seventh best season average ever amongst conference setters and her 879 assists was the fifth best season total in Canada West history. The 2015 U SPORTS championship tournament MVP was also second on TWU in digs per set, with 2.37. O’Reilly would be TWU’s back-up setter, but Cornwall played all 83 sets of the Spartans regular season.
The Spartans middle tandem of Katie Devaney and Ashtyn McKenzie helped TWU collect 2.62 blocks per set, which was second most in Canada West. Both Devaney and McKenzie finished in the top five in the conference in blocks per set, with McKenzie averaging 1.08 and Devaney at 1.04. Jessica Bailey and Alison Quiring can step in off the bench, but so far, Devaney and McKenzie have started together in all but one of TWU’s matches this year.
After missing all of last year with an injury, Rachel Flink returned this year and has been exactly the libero her coaches and teammates expected. She averaged a team-leading 2.46 digs per set. Similar to the setting position, the back-up libero would likely be O’Reilly. However, she hasn’t been called upon this year with Flink playing all 83 sets.