EDMONTON – Improving their hitting efficiency even further north of a sizzling .500 than their clinical 3-0 win over the MacEwan Griffins on Friday, the Trinity Western Spartans completed a weekend sweep with another straight-sets triumph on Saturday at the David Atkinson Gym.
Hitting at .515, bombing eight service aces in three sets and beating the Griffins in the team blocking game 7.0 to 3.0, the Spartans again showed why they are ranked No. 2 in the U SPORTS men's volleyball top-10.
Their 25-14, 25-17, 25-20 victory pushes their record to 16-4, second-best in the Canada West conference. MacEwan falls to 3-17 and will miss the playoffs.
Third year outside Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) led the Spartans with nine kills and three aces, while second year middle Jackson Howe (Calgary) was strong in the middle for a second-straight night with nine kills (on a red-hot .900 efficiency), adding three blocks.
Jordan Krause led the Griffins with nine kills, while Max Vriend chipped in seven on a solid .417 efficiency and added two blocks. The Griffins certainly had some moments, particularly when they led the third set early, but didn't show enough consistency to truly challenge the Spartans.
Behind some solid serving and passing, the Griffins built a 13-8 lead and held a 16-13 advantage at the technical timeout before the wheels fell off.
But TWU went on a 5-0 run to take control of the set and never looked back, winning the final four points to end the match.
MacEwan has now lost nine straight and has yet to win in the second semester after building some momentum with some strong performances before Christmas.
TWU Head Coach Ben Josephson
On the game
"It was our third straight match where we have had the appropriate competitive mind set consistency. When we stay focused like that we can compete at a really high level. The guys are working really hard to stay present and to focus on what we are trying to execute with each point."
"The third set we got down, but we just stayed steady. It was good to see MacEwan raise their game and the third set was a really competitive set. So it was great to see our kids match up and play well."
On the play of fifth year's Cameron Slomp and Riley Vander Meulen
"We had great contributions from our double sub of Cameron and Riley, a couple of Edmonton boys and an Edmonton Christian connection. They were awesome and they did really well. They cracked the third set back open for us after we were down with a four point swing. So it was awesome to see the hometown boys get it done tonight."
"I thought the guys did similar to what we worked on last night, that's three matches in a row."
"The quote is 'first you make your habits, then your habits make you.' With three good mental matches in a row, it's become a habit. Now we can rely that that's going to be there."
"Our guys were able to adapt quickly tonight, which is a good sign that maybe we'll be able to do that in the playoffs."
On MacEwan's third set success
"We got a lot of results this weekend on our serving, so they had to play a lot of high ball, which made our block defence pretty formidable, but in the third set, they passed a lot better and they were getting the ball past our block fairly easily."
"Once our defenders started to make some plays and we got some more middle balls, then it started to roll, and we got the result."
"Games kind of go in that ebb and flow. It's all about service pressure and reception consistency. We controlled most of that this weekend, which is why we won the match. But you could see whenever they applied consistent service pressure, the game was really close."
"That's the important part of it because down the stretch and in the playoffs, it's the second time we've seen everybody. We all have 22 matches of data and there's no secrets anymore. It's really a game of cat and mouse. Who can make the adjustments faster minimizes the runs you give up and maximize the runs you take."
MacEwan Head Coach Brad Poplawski
On the game
"Volleyball isn't a sport of a highlight reel. We can't score two quick goals and go into a prevent defence. It's not hockey. We can't just ride a hot goalie. You have to repeat things. To win a match, you have to score 75 points somehow. So, you need that repeatability. Our good stuff's always been very good, and our highlight-reel stuff has been good. It's just good teams, as we see, can repeat it and do it over and over and over again. That's what makes them hard to play against because they don't go away."
On TWU's 5-0 run to take control of the third set.
"Obviously, that's indicative of their level of play. That's no accident. They are who they are and that's a pretty damn good team. They're physical. We had some success in the set doing some proper things, but you saw how it eroded – we lost our passing. That's how a 16-13 lead becomes 18-16 for them like that."
On their struggles after the Christmas break
"We were playing some really good ball first semester and really playing better each week," he said. "I can handle losing when you play and a team's just better than you. But we've regressed since the first semester and that's unfortunate."
"I thought we had a chance to keep building and improving. I don't know why but just coming off the break, our passing has regressed. Everything goes from that. It affects our setting, it affects our offence, it affects our timing, and it affects balls we're giving up, which then affects our block defence. It's too bad."
- Spartans fifth year setter Cameron Slomp (Edmonton) had a career high eight set assists.
- Since dropping their Friday night match to UBC on January 25, TWU has won 15 straight sets. The TWU record is 17 straight sets, which they set over seven matches in 2014.
The Spartans will return home for senior weekend against the Manitoba Bisons on Feb. 15-16, while the Griffins will head to Brandon to close out the season against the Bobcats. You can catch all these match-ups live online at CanadaWest.TV.