Suddenly slumping TWU has dropped three consecutive five setters in Canada West play.
Trinity Western University's men's volleyball team just can't seem to hold on to a lead these days.
For the second straight night, the visiting Manitoba Bisons came from behind to earn a five-set victory over Spartans, winning 3-2 Saturday at the Langley Events Centre.
Set scores were 25-20, 23-25, 14-25, 25-23, and 15-13.
After rallying from a 2-1 set deficit to force a fifth set, in the final set, down 13-12, the Bisons (whose record improved to 10-6 with the win) scored the last three points of the match to take the set 15-13 and the match.
The Spartans' record dropped to 11-5.
After Manitoba earned points on a TWU back row attack error followed by another attack error by the home side, the match's final point came on an overpass by Manitoba's Luke Herr that flummoxed the Spartans and fell untouched just on the TWU side of the net.
The Spartans have now lost three straight five setters and have dropped three matches in a row in Canada West league play for the first time since a four-game slide that spanned from Nov. 10, 2007 to Jan. 12, 2008.
Despite out-blocking Manitoba 20.5 to eight, including holding a Bisons team that leads Canada West in blocks to just four through the first four sets, the Spartans found themselves on the losing end. The Spartans also out-hit Manitoba .193 to .112 but it was TWU's 17 serving errors to just one ace that was largely the home side's undoing.
For Manitoba, it was Dane Pischke leading the way with 14 kills and a match-high 20 digs while Chris Voth, who got injured midway through the third set, also had 14 kills.
Kenny Rooney had a team-high four blocks. Setter Chris Komishon, who only played three sets, had 21 assists, while Herr, who replaced Komishon midway through the match, had 19 assists.
Trinity Western was led by Nick Del Bianco, who had 22 kills and 13 digs.
Steven Marshall added 18 kills, 12 digs, and six blocks. Dan Jansen Van Doorn had career-high 14 blocks along with four kills while setter Scott Plocktis, who replaced Jarrod Offereins early in the match, had 50 assists.
Jansen Van Doorn's previous career-high was 13, which came against Alberta in the CIS national championship quarter-final March 4, 2011.
"We are having a hard time finding the competitive balance required to win these tough matches against playoff opponents," Spartans' coach Ben Josephson said. "Some athletes are under-activated and some might be over-activated and the pressure is getting to them. Not a lot of these guys have been in these types of matches and had to play as big of a role as they do now.
"We're still looking for that balance which allows our guys to play to their abilities and play within the context of the system."
Josephson said the team's play of late, and particularly the serving number, is a "product of this lack of balance."
"I feel like our team is prepared but we just make emotional and mental errors, and to me, that has a lot to do with my ability to prepare the team, to manage expectations and focus on the job at hand," Josephson said. "Unfortunately I need to take the brunt of these losses."
The Spartans will travel to Calgary next weekend to play Mount Royal Jan. 25-26.
Bisons bull to win
After dropping the first two sets, the Bisons rallied to win the next three Friday at the LEC.
Set scores were 26-28, 19-25, 25-23, 25-21, and 15-11.
With Pischke, Evan Jackson, and Voth leading the way offensively with 20, 16 and 11 kills respectively, the Bisons cranked their game up to a different level after the second set and the Spartans couldn't quite keep up.
After the trio combined for just 13 kills in the first two sets, over the final three sets, they earned 34 kills.
In the fifth set, the Bisons took a 9-9 tie and ran away with the match, scoring six of the last eight points and with a Jackson kill handed the Spartans their second five-set loss in a row.
It's also the second time in as many matches TWU has given up a 2-0 lead and lost and, after winning 26 straight matches at the LEC, this was their second loss in a row at home.
The last time Manitoba beat TWU in Langley was Jan. 12, 2007 when it also won a five-setter.
Trinity Western setter Devyn Plett, who was playing in his first match of the season, had a career-high 60 assists to go with 10 digs as he guided the Spartans offence as a starter for the first time in his career.
Plett's 60 assists puts him in tie with Josh Howatson's effort against Alberta Jan. 28, 2006, for the third most assists in a single match in Spartan' history. Howatson owns the Spartans record, with 66 in a match against Winnipeg Nov. 13, 2004, while Spartans' current assistant coach Ben Ball is second, having put up 63 assists against Laval Mar. 13, 2010.
The Spartans had four players in double-digits for kills, led by Del Bianco, who had 18 to go with a match-high four aces. Marshall was next with 14 kills, while Jansen Van Doorn had 12 kills, on .556 attacking, and a match-high six blocks. Brad Kufske added 12 kills and 12 digs. Offereins, last year's CIS Libero of the Year, returned to his defensive position after setting last weekend against Brandon and had a team-high 14 digs.
"Manitoba played great over the last three sets," Josephson said. "They tried to neutralize our block by tipping and tipping in the first two sets and with Devyn out there, we're pretty good in transition. So their original game plan didn't work with Devyn on the floor. So then they tried to be really aggressive and I thought they just bullied us. They were more aggressive with their swings. They out-blocked and we had a lot of breakdowns systematically. They were getting a lot of free kills on bad decisions on our part.
Josephson said the Bobcats raised their intensity level and simply outplayed the Spartans after the first two sets.
"Pischke was a beast after the second set. Between him and Voth's serving and passing, those two players dominated our team," Josephson said. "They're both national team kids and that's what national kids do when they have a chance to beat a rival on the road."