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NO. 2 BRANDON SWEEPS TOP-RANKED SPARTANS

NO. 2 BRANDON SWEEPS TOP-RANKED SPARTANS

BRANDON, Man. – The No. 2 nationally ranked Bobcats ran the table on the No. 1 ranked Trinity Western Spartans at the Healthy Living Centre, as BU capped off a perfect weekend by earning a 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-21) the Spartans for a second straight night.

Brandon's Swiss star Robin Baghdady was impressive on the night with four aces, eight kills and two blocks as Brandon boosted their conference record to 12-2. Viles led Brandon with 10 kills while Seth Friesen added eight kills.

Reece Dixon delivered 33 assists and Brady Nault notched 10 digs, both were match-highs for BU.

Jacob Kern (Edmonton) scored a match-high 12 kills in a losing cause for the Spartans, who fell to 9-3. Trinity Western was playing without the conference's top attacker Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.). with fifth-year Ben Lieuwen (Abbotsford, B.C.) taking his place in the lineup. Lieuwen earned five kills and added five digs for the Spartans.

It's been more than three years since TWU last dropped back-to-back three-setters. The last time it happened was Oct. 30-31, 2015 on the road against Saskatchewan. That season, the Spartans went on to win both the Canada West and U SPORTS championships.

TWU hit .103 as a team, while the Bobcats hit .256.

The Bobcats offence caught fire in the first set with a 6-0 run thanks to a hat-trick from Baghdady from the service line. Trinity Western replied with a flurry of points of their own. A 7-1 Spartans run tied it 18-18. However, Brandon responded, eventually sealing the opening set with back-to-back points.

Brandon's momentum carried over into the second as they grabbed leads of 8-3 and 14-8. At the technical timeout, the Bobcats stood tall at 16-11. BU had short bursts of offence for the remainder of the set to grab a convincing advantage in the match.

In the third, the Bobcats built a four-point lead, but the Spartans countered with a 5-1 run to tie it 15-15. There was a series of momentum shifts the rest of the way with Trinity Western closing the gap to 21-20. In the end, Brandon came through in the clutch with three consecutive points to sweep the match.

QUOTABLE
Ben Josephson – TWU Head Coach
"It wasn't really close tonight. Brandon was great. For the second night in a row, those guys played super well and we were not equipped, at this stage in the season, to beat that team. That became apparent tonight. After the first loss, you wonder if they were just on and we were off, but that wasn't the case. After two straight nights, that's enough to know that they have a special group. The good thing for us is that's now the picture of what it's going to take to win this conference.

"Thank goodness they don't give out banners in January. That's the one thing we have going for us. We have two months before we'll see them or a team like them in the playoffs. So, we have to get our game better and be better in a number of phases. We have to get healthy and be prepared for the next time we see a team that talented. Nothing is better motivation than getting blasted in the face with a knockout blow. I'm excited to see what our kids are made of as we head into the bye weekend."

Aaron Boettcher – Fourth-year TWU middle
"When it is a loss you try to take away character, mental and energy stuff – things you can translate come March and when we play them in March. We knew it was going to be hard, especially coming out of the Christmas break. Both teams were coming off a long break and it was going to be the toughest team to play right after a month off from volleyball. We knew it was going to be a challenge and they looked really good."

Elliott Viles – Third-year Brandon outside hitter
"Trinity Western has been the benchmark of the level you need to play at it if you want to win the national championship. We knew it was going to be a big test and we could not be happier with the results. Hopefully we can use this momentum for the rest of the second half and keep building towards reaching the national tournament in March."

NOTABLE
• TWU is now 20-20 all-time in the first weekend following the Christmas break.
• The Spartans are 18-10 all-time against Brandon.
• TWU and Brandon split their season series last year, with the Bobcats winning in five sets and the Spartans taking the second match in four sets.
• Prior to Friday's three-set loss, TWU hadn't lost a regular season match in three sets since Jan. 7, 2017 against Saskatchewan.

UP NEXT
The Spartans have a bye next weekend before returning to action Jan. 18-19 when they host Thompson Rivers.

About Spartan Athletics
As official members of U SPORTS, the Spartans currently compete in 10 sports in the Canada West conference, including women's and men's soccer, volleyball, basketball, cross country and track & field. TWU also competes in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) in men's hockey. Since TWU entered U SPORTS in 1999, the Spartans have won 11 U SPORTS team championships and 25 Canada West team championships.

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