Men’s volleyball rolls
Spartans take down Mount Royal
It had been a tough week for the Spartans Men’s Volleyball team. The Spartans dropped a pair of five-setters at home against Manitoba, just one week after dropping one in five sets to Brandon. The three consecutive losses was Trinity Western University’s first three-game losing streak in Canada West conference play since November of 2007.
Coach Ben Josephson put his players through a tough week of practice and the team responded accordingly as they returned to the court on the road against Mount Royal over the weekend. Despite playing at the CIS level for the first time this year, Mount Royal has actually been a highly competitive team. The Cougars came into the weekend at 7-9 overall and sitting just one game back of the last playoff spot. However, the Spartans made sure the Cougars wouldn’t make a move into the postseason on their watch.
The first match was never really in doubt as the Spartans won in straight sets, but it wasn’t the vintage Spartan dominance that fans have gotten used to. The most impressive thing about the Spartans great season last year was how they routinely won sets by double digits. This year, it’s been different as the men have had to fight all the way to the 25th point, even in their straight set victories.
On Friday the Spartans eased to victory thanks to an incredibly efficient .334 attack percentage (including a crazy .412 mark in the first set) and a dominant blocking performance that forced a litany of attack errors from the Cougars. Mount Royal did stay close, thanks in large part to Colton deMan who had 12 kills and setter Marcus Ernewein who picked up 29 sets and dropped a pair of service aces.
The Spartans were just too much though, as Nick Del Bianco caught fire and tallied 16 kills on 34 attempts to led TWU to victory, 25-20, 25-21, 25-21. The Spartans came back the next night with a similar effort and emerged with another hard-fought win. Mount Royal deserves credit for responding with a much better effort on defense as their blocking and digging efforts forced the Spartans to attempt 43 attacks in the second set, which the Spartans ultimately lost. However, Del Bianco again took the game over and padded his MVP resume with 26 kills and two service aces. Jarrod Offereins looked very solid again as his transition from Libero to Setter seems to be finally paying off. Offereins missed extended time with an ankle injury but now seems to finally be 100% as he settles into a groove. The same cannot be said for Steven Marshall who has continued to struggle coming off an injury earlier in the year. Marshall failed to tally double digit kills in either match, which is a concern. Marshall routinely dropped 15+ kills a game last year and he needs to get it going again if the Spartans hope to once again repeat as champions.
The weekend was a success overall as the Spartans recovered from their mini three-game disaster to get themselves back in order. Despite the two wins, TWU was formally eliminated from contention for the top overall seed, which means they will be forced to play a three-match playoff series to get into the Canada West Final Four. The final stretch wouldn’t be easy either; the Spartans come back against suddenly resurrected Calgary this weekend. The Dinos were 2-12 at one point, but have won four straight and are playing their best volleyball of the year. The Spartans will then close out the regular season in a big measuring stick series against the undefeated and official top seed Alberta.