CALGARY – For the third time in five years, the Trinity Western University Spartans are champions of Canada West Women's Volleyball.
In a matchup featuring a pair of teams that went 19-5 during the regular season to finish first and second in Canada West, the Spartans took control of the match early, pulling off a straight-sets win (25-14, 25-18, 25-15) over the Calgary Dinos Friday night at the Campus Centre Gymnasium at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).
Fourth year setter Brie King (O'Reilly) (Langley, B.C.) was named the player of the match for the Spartans, but it was a well-rounded team effort that earned them the conference crown. Canada West rookie of the year Savannah Purdy (Victoria, B.C.) led Trinity Western with 10 kills, while second year middle Avery Heppell (Langley, B.C.) finished with seven blocks and seven kills. Also third year outside Hilary Howe (Calgary) had nine kills, while fifth year outside Ashtyn McKenzie (Vernon, B.C.) had six kills and three service aces for the Spartans.
Second-year outside hitter Kenzie Vaandering provided seven kills for Calgary, while Beth Vinnell was also impactful with four blocks.
Brie King led the Spartans with 32 set assists. While Lexi Peart led the Dinos with 10 set assists, with Leah Shevkenek adding nine assists.
TWU dominated the match both offensively and defensively. The Spartans finished hitting .311 (39-11-90), while the Dinos finished at .011 (25-24-89). TWU also had the edge in blocks 11-6 and service aces 10-4.
With the support of an energetic crowd at SAIT, the Dinos roared out to an early advantage in the first set. Leading by four, 7-3, everything seemed to be going well for Calgary, until a pair of ceiling shots resulted in points for the Spartans. That momentum shift put the Dinos on their heels as the Spartans outscored the Dinos 13-2 to take a 16-9 lead at the break. With the large lead Trinity Western would go on to take the first with a 25-14 score. TWU finished the set hitting.308 (11-3-26), while Calgary hit -.037 (7-8-27).
In the second set, the Dinos once again scored early and held a 7-3 lead, fuelled by Vaandering and Autumn Davidson. But like the opening set, a strong scoring run by Trinity Western stunned Calgary as they went from being up by four to quickly down one, 8-7. The teams matched points to 11-11. Savanah Purdy then took over the set. She put the Spartans up 12-11 with a kill and then went to the service line, and when she finished TWU was up 19-12. Calgary was able to cut the lead to four points, trailing 22-18, but were unable to catch TWU. The Spartans finished off the set with a service ace from fourth year middle Mikaelyn Sych (Airdrie, Alta.) and a kill from Ashtyn McKenzie to give TWU the second set 25-18. TWU's offence improved to .483 (17-3-29), while Calgary improved to .179 (11-6-28).
The two teams were even early in the third set, 6-6. Then Calgary's Kenzie Vaandering served the Dinos to a 10-6 lead. But the Spartans responded to tie the set at 11-11. TWU kept going and scored the next five points to take a 16-11 lead into the break. The Spartans continued after the break to take set 25-15 and the match 3-0. TWU hit .171 (11-5-35) in the third set, while Calgary hit -.088 (7-10-34).
TWU Head Coach Ryan Hofer
On tonight's match:
"I'm very pleased with our performances tonight. Everybody played really well, it was a collective effort. We had great energy from the sideline, and good communication all around. Overall we just did a really good job of following the game plan and we had strong serving tonight and were able to put a little bit of pressure on Calgary from our baseline."
On the support from the crowd:
"The fans were awesome we had a huge supporting group. There was a lot of people there and so was all really supported by Trinity and we thank them for everything that they did."
On McKenzie and Purdy:
I thought Ashton way I thought I had an outstanding performance tonight she did a solid job from the baseline every time she went back there and Savanna just was really hard to contain she did a good job of just moving the ball around and causing a lot of trouble."
TWU middle Avery Heppel:
"I'm very happy, very excited. We expected it to be a battle, this team is very good. We had a really good game plan coming in and we executed it well."
- Today's Canada West championship is the third for the Spartans. TWU previously won in 2015-16 and 2014-15. In 2014-15 the Spartans also won their lone U SPORTS championship.
- Due to ongoing bleacher replacement work in the Jack Simpson Gym, the match had to play at nearby SAIT. The low-hanging roof of the Campus Centre Gymnasium caused problems for both teams who were both used to playing with higher ceilings.
- Calgary outside hitter Hannah Tanasichuk was injured and forced to leave the game with the Dinos leading 9-6 in the third set.
- The Spartans will return to the U SPORTS championship after missing last season. Prior to the 2017-18 season TWU had been to seven straight national championships, winning gold in 2016-17.
Both teams will join UBC and host Alberta as Canada West reps at the U SPORTS national championship March 15-17 at the Saville Community Sports Centre in Edmonton.
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 26 Canada West team championships.