Spartans split with UBC
Spartans take one step back, two steps forward.
The Spartans Women’s Volleyball team began the 2012- 2013 season with big expectations and a new lofty standard that had never before been bestowed on the program: a national number one ranking to begin a season. Their thinking was understandable, as all six of the Spartans’ leading attackers from last season returned to the roster this year. The top spot also came with a little scrutiny considering UBC is still the five-time reigning national champion. Despite any preseason tournament results (TWU beat UBC in the final exhibition matchup for both squads), there isn’t any argument to be made that the champs should remain on top until someone shows that they can bleed.
Nevertheless, The Spartans and Thunderbirds had a chance to make a statement about who was really number one, as the two squads squared off to open the new season with a home-and-home series.
The first matchup on Friday night at UBC was surely one to forget for the Spartans. UBC came out strong and never looked back in a brilliant display of dominance. The Spartans dropped the first five points, to fall into a hole early, leading to an early timeout with the score 7-1. TWU turned it around and staged a furious rally to bring the score back to within two points at 12-10, but that was as close the Spartans got. UBC turned it on and ran away with the first set 25-18.
The Spartans actually took a lead in the second, at 2-1, but were unable to stay close with UBC after that, as the T-Birds ran off one big run at 8-0, and two 5-1 runs. They took the set convincingly: 25-13.
TWU finally made UBC fight for a full set in the third, as the Spartans even had it tied at 20-20 late. Ironically, the third set was the only time the Spartans had a negative attack percentage (kills minus errors, divided by total attacks). The Spartans ultimately lost the third as well, at 25-22, as UBC completed the sweep and ran the Spartans out of War Memorial Gym with a convincing win.
Just as it began to look like UBC would remain the queens and TWU still wasn’t ready for the spotlight, everything changed the next night at the Langley Events Centre. The Spartans showed incredible resolve on Saturday night and took it to the champs, showing that the number one ranking may not have been premature after all.
The night began rather inauspiciously as UBC reeled off a first set win at 25-20 and made it look like it might be business as usual for the T-Birds. However, TWU got back into the game with a thrilling second set victory. The two teams went back and forth until TWU broke a 14-14 tie with a huge 11-3 run. They took the set convincingly behind kills from four different players, a service ace by Kelci French and a few UBC errors. TWU took the third as well behind a big run with Royal Richardson serving and took the set behind a bevy of UBC errors. Seven out of TWU’s final eight points came on UBC mistakes.
TWU put the nails down on UBC’s coffin in the fourth with a dominant set win to take the match. The Spartans ran up a .262 attack percentage in the set (.239 overall in the match) and clinched the win with a kill by Kelci French, who is looking great in her new role as the team’s setter.
It’s only one win but it certainly helps to mitigate the blowout loss on Friday and get the Spartans pointed in the right direction for the remainder of the season. TWU won’t play a currently ranked team until January and will have a chance to go on a big run starting this Friday against Regina.