Coughing up a hairball
Men’s Volleyball loses its throne
They deserve a certain level of grace, they might even be worthy of a mulligan. Maybe after so much success this was bound to happen at some point. I’m tempted to believe the Spartans men’s volleyball team has earned a pass. But then again, I can’t just overlook what happened this past weekend. The effort the men put forward and the focus (or lack thereof) that they showed at nationals was embarrassing.
There is no excuse for these Trinity Western Spartans, the team with three straight national championship game appearances and a pair of gold medals to be knocked out in the first round. It is not even that they got knocked out so early, it’s how they lost that I find incredibly troublesome. The Spartans took a 2-0 set led in the Quarterfinal against a mediocre Western Ontario team and looked to be home free; they had a spot in the semi-finals waiting for them and then they blew it.
Even though the Spartans had the lead it was shaky at best. TWU needed extra points in the first set and were taken all the way to 25 in the second. TWU even had Western right on the brink at match point five times in the third set but the Spartans were never able to put the match away, and it cost them. The Spartans still fought hard, they didn’t let the third set collapse break them right away as they fought off three set points but ultimately lost the fourth and the fifth as well to bring the quest for a third consecutive gold medal to an end.
Now don’t get me wrong, it was a great match to watch and Western deserves all the credit for winning it but the Spartans performance simply wasn’t good enough.
Now I know this is going to upset some people because both my editors and I get emails whenever I try to criticize the athletic department in any way. It seems that any time I call out a Spartans teams for a poor performance certain people want to get the torches and pitchforks out and that bothers me. Not because people don’t like my writing but because so few people are bothered about this loss.
For the sake of reference, Western is from the OUA, a league that before this year had not placed a team in the gold medal game since 1991 and had yielded just one gold medal winner, all the way back in 1968. It’s a mediocre volleyball league that simply does not stack up with a power conference like Canada West which just saw its run of 18 consecutive gold medals come to an end. Western is a decent team, not great, not even that good. They were a 13-5 team in a second-rate league that was subsequently dispatched in straight sets after beating TWU.
Western isn’t good enough to beat TWU without some help from the other side. I have to preface this by saying this is strictly my opinion: the Spartans did not give their best effort at nationals this past weekend. Ben Josephson was pure class after the match, he gave all the credit to Western and put the spotlight on them and that is fine. Neither Josephson nor any of the players called themselves out for a poor effort however I refuse to believe that Western is on an even level with TWU and that they could play such a balanced game with them.
Like it or not, when you go three years without losing a game in March, win two gold medals, and win a medal every time you reach nationals, expectations get raised and you need to meet a certain standard. Losing in the first round to an OUA team fails to meet that standard.
But maybe it is okay. This run was going to end at some point. As much fun as it would have been to see TWU become to the men’s side what UBC is to the women’s side, there is too much talent at this level for one team to win them all. I’m sure the men are disappointed about coming up short and they’ll stew over this all summer while they strive to get better. But don’t shed a tear for them; they still have two banners hanging in the Langley Events Centre to keep them warm at night. As for the future, only Dan Jansen Van Doorn, Jarrod Offereins, and John Wiebe have expired their eligibility. They leave behind an incredible legacy of success and deserve to be remembered for all their accomplishments and their many victories together. I tip my cap to all three of them for representing TWU in a first-class manner on and off the court.
As for the rest of the team, it’s time to get back to work. They just used up their mulligan but there is a standard to be met, and next year sixth place isn’t going to cut it.