EDMONTON – The Trinity Western women's volleyball team rallied from a 2-1 deficit to beat Toronto 3-2 (25-21, 20-25, 19-25, 25-22, 15-13) and capture 5th Place at the U SPORTS Championships Sunday at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Trailing 21-16 in the fourth set, the Spartans finished the set on a 9-1 run, capped by a 6-0 run with Brie King (Langley, B.C.) at the service line to force a fifth set. In the final set, the Spartans and Varsity Blues went back and forth throughout, with TWU eventually taking the set with a kill from fifth-year Ashtyn McKenzie (Vernon, B.C.).
After losing in the quarter-finals against UBC in a five-setter, the Spartans won their final two games in five sets to finish fifth overall.
In 11 national championship tournaments, TWU has never finished below fifth.
Third-year outside hitter Hilary Howe (Calgary) led Trinity Western with 17 kills and 10 digs, while senior out-side hitter Ashtyn McKenzie (Vernon, B.C.) had 12 kills and 16 digs.
Beyond Howe and McKenzie, TWU had several key contributors in the win. Sophomore middle Avery Heppell (Langley) had 10 kills, fourth-year Kristin Anton (Prince George, B.C.) had six kills, and freshman libero Emma Gamache (Abbotsford, B.C.) earned Player of the Game honours with 22 digs.
Fourth-year right-side hitter Alina Dormann led Toronto with 16 kills and 13 digs in the loss.
After TWU earned a come-from-behind opening set 25-21 win, Toronto took control in the second and third sets and looked they may be in cruise control to wrap up the match.
The Varsity Blues continued to put pressure on Trinity Western, and held a 20-16 lead in the fourth set. The Spartans struggled from the service line in the consolation final, but when they needed their fortunes to turn around, fourth-year setter King sparked TWU to another comeback win.
It was a tough end to the season for the Varsity Blues. The reigning OUA champions were beat by host Alberta in the tournament opener, and finished sixth this year.
Players of the Game
Toronto: Jenna Woock
Calgary: Emma Gamache
Ryan Hofer – TWU Coach
"You got the OUA champ and the Canada West champ and it was two great teams playing amazing volleyball to end the season for both groups. Each (five-set match) was a little unique. The first was two teams who were battling so hard to get to that next round. The next one was two teams who didn't want to be in that match, trying to find their heart, and this one was two (conference) champs, battling for pride to end the tournament on a win and a high."
"The girls are tired, this is our third fifth-setter, and I told the girls, you can be tired after in the locker room and they inspired each other and played great volleyball.
"Kristin did an outstanding job for us. Playing her last game, she did a great job ripping balls for us with the volume she was given. Avery was clutch today. She made so many important plays for us, and Emma Gamache did a wonderful job for us digging up a lot of balls for us. I'm excited to have her for the next four years."
• The fifth-place contest was a rematch of the 2016 national final, when the Varsity Blues upset a powerhouse Spartans side to win their first-ever U SPORTS championship.
• The Spartans are 5-0 all-time in fifth-place matches at the national championship.
• In each of their four previous quarter-final losses (2006, 2009, 2012 and 2014), TWU also bounced back to win its next two games to finish fifth.
Recognized for quality, TWU has received seven consecutive A+ rankings for Quality of Teaching and Learning, holds three Canada Research Chairs, and wins national championships in CIS sports. More importantly, lives are changed at TWU through its whole-person, Christ-centred approach to education. With a wide array of undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree-completion programs, TWU equips leaders of character and competence to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
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.