KAMLOOPS, B.C. – The No. 1-ranked Trinity Western men's volleyball team finished atop the Canada West regular season standings for the third time in program history, capping its 2017-18 campaign with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-21, 25-18) win over Thompson Rivers Saturday.
The victory pushes the two-time defending Canada West and U SPORTS champion Spartans record to 22-2, which marks the most regular season wins the Spartans have ever accumulated.
Having earned first place in Canada West, the Spartans will have home-court advantage for the duration of the conference playoffs and will, in an interesting twist, host the WolfPack in in the conference playoffs, starting Thursday (7 p.m. at the Langley Events Centre), with Game 1 of the best-of-three quarter-final series. TRU (11-13) finished eighth in the Canada West standings.
Schriemer, who finished the season with a Canada West-leading 10.57 assists per set, had 31 assists in the season finale.
The Spartans two previous regular season titles were in 2011-12 and 2013-14.
The WolfPack and Spartans got to work right from the get-go. They battled point-for-point in the opening set. They were tied 5-5 before the Spartans went up by two, with one point being a service ace from Jesse Elser (Calgary). TWU went up by three, at 10-7, on a monster kill from Kern, and led 16-13 at the technical time out. Kern had three kills in the set, who were paced by Loeppky with five in eight opportunities. The Spartans took the first set 25-19. Schriemer had 13 assists.
In the second set, the two battled once again with no team having more than a single point lead until TWU went up 15-13 and eventually had a 16-14 advantage at the time out. Kern had six kills in the set as his team racked up 4.5 blocks in comparison to one for the WolfPack. Foot continued to pace Thompson Rivers with three kills in the set to give him five on the match. Charlie Bringloe had three kills to give him four on the night while Sam Taylor Parks had three kills himself in that set.
Moving to the third set, the Spartans found a groove and opened up a three point lead, 11-8, prompting WolfPack head coach Pat Hennelly to call a time out. That didn't dissuade the Spartans as they added four more to lead 16-8 at the break. Down 20-10, he WolfPack showed some life as they scored four in a row to cut the deficit to 20-14. TWU prevailed though taking the third and final set 25-18
TWU Head Coach Ben Josephson
"TRU didn't play their best lineup that they've been showing the last few weeks, be it because of injury, or rest or gamesmanship – we're not sure. Likewise, we tried a different lineup this weekend that we haven't used all season. Everyone is trying to prep for the playoffs in different ways, so you never really know what you're looking at across the net or even on your own side. We saw some really great things from our lineup this weekend and we saw some different things, but we're happy to win the league for the third time. We've won more regular season titles than national championships (five), which says a lot about how difficult it is to win. You have to be great for 14 weeks. You need your depth to get you through all the bumps and bruises of the season and you can't have lulls.
"We also talked about now that this is over, while it's a great accomplishment and it gives us home court advantage for the playoffs, now the real stuff starts. We didn't set out to win the regular season, but what we did set out to do was put ourselves into a position to win a national championship. By getting home court advantage, it does that but now we have to perform. We know the stakes get higher and the opponents improve and every point matters a little bit more and we're excited for the playoffs."
• Adam Schriemer (Winnipeg) had 31 assists and now has 3,448 career assists, which caps the best statistical setting career in TWU history. This total is also the fifth most in Canada West history.
• Second-year Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) finished the year first in Canada West, with a .362 hitting percentage, second in Canada West in aces per set, with 0.61 and fourth in Canada West in kills per set, with 4.05.
• Rookie Jessie Elser (Calgary) was third in the conference in hitting percentage, at .301, and fifth in aces per set, with 0.48.
• Third-year middle Pearson Eshenko (Banff, Alta.) finished fifth in blocks, with 1.07 per set.
• As a team, TWU finished the year first in Canada West in hitting percentage (.311), assists per set (12.20) and points per set (17.1). The Spartans were second in aces per set, with 1.86.
• For the third match in a row, TRU's top gunner, Tim Dobbert, sat in street clothes as he recovers from an injury.
• The quarter-final matchup with TRU will mark the fourth playoff meeting between TWU and TRU. The Spartans are 5-2 all-time in the post-season against the WolfPack. In 2008-09, the Spartans lost a three-match quarter-final series at home against TRU, while in both 2010-11 and 2014-15, TWU won the quarter-final series in two games.
Canada West Quarter-Finals vs. Thompson Rivers (best of three) | Langley Events Centre
Game 1 – vs. Thompson Rivers – Feb. 22 (7 p.m. PT)
Game 2 – vs. Thompson Rivers – Feb. 23 (7 p.m. PT)
Game 3 – vs. Thompson Rivers – Feb. 24 (7 p.m. PT) (if necessary)