TWU had Brandon reeling, but was unable to deliver the knockout blow Saturday afternoon. Instead, the Bobcats recovered to stun the hosts in five sets.
That's how Trinity Western University men's volleyball coach Ben Josephson described his team's collapse Saturday afternoon at the Langley Events Centre.
Down 2-0 in sets and facing match-point, the Brandon Bobcats rallied to win three straight sets as they knocked off the Spartans 3-2.
Set scores were 16-25, 24-26, 29-27, 25-20, and 15-13.
With TWU (11-3) up 2-0, the Bobcats (10-4) staved off match-point at 26-25 in the third set and went on to win 29-27, which forced the fourth set.
Brandon then continued to roll in the fourth, winning by five, and in the fifth, while TWU picked up its play, the Bobcats pulled it out late, winning 15-13.
With TWU up 13-12 in the fifth set, Brandon scored three straight points and, with a block from Dan Boutwell took the set and the match.
The loss is the Spartans' first setback at the LEC, including exhibition games and the playoffs, since Jan. 22, 2011, when they fell to the Calgary Dinos.
Over that span, TWU had won 26 straight matches at the events centre.
The Bobcats were led by Sam Tuivai, who had 21 kills and 10 digs, while Roy Ching added 17 kills and 14 digs and Boutwell had 14 kills and five blocks. Setter Garrett Popplestone had a match-high 57 assists along with 15 digs and four blocks. Libero Scott Neufeld had a match-high 25 digs.
For the Spartans, it was Steven Marshall leading the way with 18 kills and 10 digs while Brad Kufske had 13 kills and 10 digs. Derek Thiessen had a career-high 11 kills, with his previous career-high being a nine kill effort he produced earlier this year against Thompson Rivers on Nov. 9.
Lucas Van Berkel had a match-high 11 blocks to go with nine kills. Libero John Wiebe led the team with 15 digs.
"That's an excruciatingly painful loss," Josephson said. "To give up a 2-0 lead in your own building is unacceptable. If we want to be a championship team, that is unacceptable. We've proven we're not ready for championship run. Now we have to train to become that kind of team."
The Spartans' head coach added, "They had a ton of emotion in the third set and it took us 15 or 16 points to match it, but we never did stop them after that. We lost our aggression. I thought we played timid in the fourth set and let that one slide away. In the fifth set, we played fine and it was anyone's game, but they thoroughly outplayed us in the important sets."
In the first set, Trinity Western forced its agenda in the late stages and pulled away for a nine-point win. A kill from Thiessen ended the set.
TWU scored five straight points - two coming via Brandon Schmidt kills - to give the Spartans a crack at set point. A kill by Brandon's Ching tied it 24-24, but back-to-back kills from TWU's Marshall completed the late-set rally.
In the third set, the Spartans had one crack at match point, at 26-25 but Brandon held them off and then, with the score knotted at 27, Tuivai produced a kill and a block to earn the 29-27 win.
After winning the fourth set, the Bobcats trailed 13-12 in the decisive stanza, but a Tuivai block got Brandon going in the right direction.
Two points later and a match-winning Boutwell block and Brandon earned the weekend split and its biggest win of the season.
The Spartans are back at home this weekend when they host Manitoba Jan. 18-19 at the Langley Events Centre.
In what was an emotionally-charged match, the Spartans managed to grind out a win over Brandon, knocking off the Bobcats in five sets Thursday at the LEC.
Set scores were 26-24, 25-15, 19-25, 22-25, and 15-11.
Playing at the LEC for the first time since the 2011 CIS national championship gold medal match, the Bobcats forced the Spartans to play a fifth set for the first time at home all season.
But, like the result nearly two years ago, it was TWU coming out on top, this time in five.
The Spartans, who were playing without outside hitter Nick Del Bianco and with Jarrod Offereins setting for the first time since early October after missing most of the first semester with an injury, managed to squeak out the win despite giving up a 2-0 advantage.
The win was Trinity Western's 26 straight, including exhibition and playoffs, at the LEC.
The Spartans were led by Steven Marshall, who had 15 kills and three blocks, while Brad Kufske had 11 kills, four blocks, three aces and seven digs. Derek Thiessen finished with a career-high five aces and a career-high 13 digs. His previous high for aces was two against New Brunswick Oct. 20, 2010 while his previous high for digs was eight, which he had against UBC Oct. 27, 2012.