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LANGLEY, B.C. – The two-time defending Canada West and U SPORTS champion Spartans are set to open their season this weekend, as the Trinity Western men’s volleyball team travels to play Saskatchewan where they will officially begin their title defence.

On the upcoming season:
“We have a lot of young guys who have been training hard and waiting for their chance and we also have some exciting new guys on the team and we’ve seen a lot of improvements from the older guys.”

On this year’s group:
“With us, there are program characteristics, which we try to be consistent with, but each team also has a little bit of a different feel. I think you’ll see some of the same things from years past – this team is big and physical and serves tough and blocks well and has a fast offence. But I think this group is a bit of a goofy group. I think they really like to joke around and they already have great chemistry. They’re super intense, but also easy going, which makes it a lot of fun to be in the gym.”

On being the two-time defending national champions:
“We talk about pressure being a privilege. A lot of these guys came to this program to compete for national titles and to be part of a legacy that is pretty impressive. They knew what they were signing up for since Day 1. The reality is that we’re going to get every other team’s best shot and if you want to be a great team, you have to handle that. But we look at that as a privilege because it makes us better and it gives us a better chance to three-peat.”

As one of just two fifth-year players on the team, Adam Schriemer (Winnipeg) will be one of the Spartans key leaders and expectations are high for last year’s national championship tournament MVP. Last year, Schriemer was second in Canada West with 10.28 assists per set during the regular season and followed that up by averaging 11.36 assists per set at the national championship tournament. Behind Schriemer is second-year Maddux Greves (Calgary), who was impressive in spot duty last year.

Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) may only be in his second year with the Spartans, but last year’s U SPORTS Rookie of the Year is set to move into a leading role with this year’s team. With the departure of veteran outsides Ryan Sclater and Blake Scheerhoorn, the Spartans will look to Loeppky to help lead a strong group of outside hitters who are primed to build upon TWU’s impressive run of success. With the likes of Jacob Kern (Edmonton), Ben Lieuwen (Abbotsford, B.C.) and first-year Jesse Elser (Calgar), the Spartans will once again have plenty of options for Schriemer.

Simply put, the Spartans are dominant down middle. As has been the team’s story for years, you can expect another year monster year in the middle for TWU. With Pearson Eshenko (Banff, Alta.) and, when healthy, Aaron Boettcher (Surrey, B.C.) in the lineup, TWU has arguably the best duo on the country. Add to that first-year Jackson Howe (Calgary), who has a 12-foot spike touch, and Riley Vander Meulen (Edmonton) and the Spartans are in good shape down the middle

Fourth-year Carter Bergen (Winnipeg) is already one of the top liberos in the country and he seems set to take yet another step forward this year. Last year, he averaged a team-high 1.98 digs per set. This year, look for more of the same as he will be one of the key leaders on this year’s Spartans team. Fifth-year Antoniuk (Langley) is a steady back-up who is always up for the task when called upon.

2016 CW regular season record: 21-3, 2nd
2016 post-season record (CW and U SPORTS combined): 7-0, 1st CW, 1st U SPORTS

Last CW championship / total CW championships (if no championships, list highest previous finish): 2017 / 4
Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships (if no championships, list highest previous finish): 2017 / 5

2016-17 CW regular season ranks:
Points per set: 16.9, 1st
Kills per set: 12.58, 2nd
Hitting percentage: .307, 1st

2016-17 CW regular season leaders:
Kills: 369 – Ryan Sclater, Outside
Digs: 160 – Carter Bergen, Libero
Blocks: 97 – Aaron Boettcher, Middle
Aces: 39 – Aaron Boettcher, Middle
Assists: 853 – Adam Schriemer, setter

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):
Jesse Elser / OH / 1 / Calgary / FTC – Team Canada
Jackson Howe / M / 1 / Calgary / Dr. E. P. Scarlett
Colton Loewen / L / 1 / Abbotsford, B.C. / MEI
Derek Epp / S / RS / Saskatoon / University of Saskatchewan
Garrett Markham / OH / 1 / St. Catharines, Ont. / Eden Christian

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):
Ryan Sclater / OH / Port Coquitlam, B.C. / 5
Blake Scheerhoorn / OH / Belleville, Ont. / 4
Leigh Goossen / M / Kelowna, B.C. / 2