LANGLEY, B.C. – The No. 1-ranked Trinity Western men's volleyball team took a 1-0 series lead over No. 10 Thompson River with a 3-1 (26-24, 22-25,25-20,25-21) win Thursday in the best-of-three Canada West quarter-finals.
After splitting the first two sets, the Spartans found their rhythm partway through the third set and after the technical timeout discovered another level en route to convincing third and fourth set wins.
TWU was led offensively by Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) with 20 kills. Adam Schriemer (Winnipeg) finished the night with 41 assists. For TRU, Tim Dobbert, who made a return to the court after missing his team's last three games with an injury, had a team-high 22 kills, while Anton Napolitano had 34 assists. As a team, TWU hit .283, while TRU was hit 236.
Carter Bergen was a huge in the back row collecting 13 digs, including a few of the highlight reel variety.
TWU outmatched TRU in kills 52-42.
The win for TWU was their third in the seven day against the WolfPack, having knocked off TRU on back-to-back nights to close out the regular season last weekend.
The two-time defending Canada West and U SPORTS champion Spartans have now won 15 straight playoff matches.
The WolfPack and Spartans were tight early in the first set, as TRU held a one-point lead at the technical timeout. After that, TWU went on a 5-2 run giving them a 20-18 lead. TRU fought back to even the set 24-24, but TWU put up two straight points to close out the set 26-24
In the second set, TWU came out strong taking 4-0 lead, but the Wolfpack didn't back down, battling back to lead 16-15 at the technical timeout. The WolfPack continued to roll with a 4-0 run shortly after the break to go ahead 21-17, before holding on for a 25-22 set win. TRU held TWU to a .000 per cent attacking in the set, and offensively Dobbert added seven kills.
In the third set, back and forth action had TRU up 16-15 at the technical time out. After that, the Spartans started to roll, putting up three straight points to lead 18-16. TWU never looked back taking a 2-1 set lead by winning 25-20. TWU's offence was led by Loeppky with seven kills in the set.
The Spartans dominated the early half of the fourth set taking a 16-12 lead into the technical timeout. TWU held the lead the rest of the way cruising to a 25-21 win to take the match 3-1.
• Spartans are now 6-2 all-time in Canada West quarter-final matchups against Thompson Rivers.
• With win in Game 2, TWU would advance to the Canada West semifinals, where they would host the winner of the quarter-final series between Brandon and Winnipeg.
• Dobbert was the Canada West leader in kills per set at 4.13.
TWU Head Coach Ben Josephson
"That's what playoffs feel like. It's uncomfortable. It's not easy. Everything you're good at, you're opponents are taking away, so you're going to have to beat them using things you're not good at. I thought it was a masterclass prep by (TRU coach) Pat (Hennelly). They knew every way to put us in trouble and that, combined with the nerves we felt, put us in a tough situation. I think I underestimated how many guys were out there in their first playoff match and how intense it was going to be. And I think I overestimated our ability to feel comfortable. That was a coach fail big time in making it worse than it needed to be. Playoffs are never easy and the WolfPack is hard to beat but I don't think I set our team up to feel comfortable. That being said I think we learned some cool lessons and it didn't cost us a match.
"But I love how nervous they were and that they were rattled because they understand how important and how special what we're trying to do is. Winning a playoff series and making a national championship run is a big deal and I think they understood that. Around the technical timeout in the third, they looked like they were ready and I thought we were better the rest of the game."
The teams meet again in Game 2 Friday at 7 p.m. (PT). Game 3, if necessary, is Saturday at 8 p.m. (PT).