With a vaunted attack and dominant block, the Trinity Western University men’s volleyball team won the Canada West championship with a four-set win over Saskatchewan in the conference final Saturday.
Scores were 25-22, 25-19, 35-37, and 25-23.
The Spartans, who came into the Canada West Final Four as the lowest seed, had 18 blocks and hit .331 as a team to knock off the Huskies and win their third conference title.
TWU previously won Canada West championships in 2007 and 2012.
On his team’s third crack at match point in the fourth set, Spartans setter Adam Schriemer surprised the Huskies with a sublime dump that earned TWU the winning point.
After the Huskies won a wild third set 37-35, the Spartans responded by taking a 14-7 lead in the fourth set and holding on for the set and the match.
With Blake Scheerhoorn collecting 24 kills and Ryan Sclate adding 21 kills, the Spartans continued their impressive run that has seen them win four straight matches since sitting just a loss away from playoff elimination in last weekend’s quarter-finals.
“I thought we came out of the gate really well, but then we got a little tentative and our opponents played inspired defense,” Spartans coach Ben Josephson said.
“Saskatchewan did a great job of staying in the fight in that third set. When you get a little tentative against a great team, they make some plays. I was happy with our response in the fourth set. We went up big and they came back but this time it was more about them making great plays than us being tentative. But we found a way to grind it out.
“We played two really clean sets and two really greasy ones and nationals will be like that. There will be some clean ones and some gross ones and it’s cool that we got to get this win with both.”
The Spartans will now prepare for the CIS national championship, hosted by McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., March 10 to 12.
The last time the Spartans entered the national tournament as the Canada West champions, they went on to win the 2012 national title.
The Spartans have fond memories of McMaster as they won their first ever national championship there when they upset a highly-touted Alberta side in a three-set stunner.
This marks the seventh straight season the Spartans have made it to the national tournament.
Schriemer guided TWU’s offense with 53 assists, while libero Tyler Koslowsky, who is the Spartans’ lone fifth-year player, had a match-high 14 digs.
Middle Aaron Boettcher had a match-high 10 blocks along with seven kills and a .583 hitting percentage.
Jordan Nowakowski had a team-high 20 kills for the Huskies while Andrew Nelson added 15 kills.
CJ Gavlas had 53 assists to lead a Huskies offence that hit .216 as a team. Saskatchewan finished with 10.5 blocks.
Hitting .371 as a team and with Sclater leading the way with an errorless seven kills, the Spartans opened a 17-11 lead in the first set before holding the Huskies off for a three-point win. Saskatchewan hit .259 in the opening set and clawed back to within two points down the stretch, but was unable to get any closer.
The Spartans opened a 6-1 lead in the second set, only to see Saskatchewan tally four straight points to get right back into the set at 6-5. However, TWU extended its lead to 10-6 and from there, the teams traded points until the technical timeout.
After the Huskies closed the cap to two points, at 16-14, the Spartans responded with a 6-0 run, including three consecutive blocks, to take a 22-14 lead.
TWU, who hit .346 in the set, finished it out with a six-point edge.
The third set went well beyond 25 points before the Huskies eventually earned a 37-35 win.
The Spartans took a 13-9 lead and held an advantage throughout much of the set.
However, with TWU up 24-22 and looking to finish the match, the Huskies came back with back-to-back kills to keep the Spartans from victory.
From there, the teams traded points, with both sides getting several cracks at winning the set, before Saskatchewan finally won it with a Gavlas kill.
The Spartans responded well in the fourth set, building a 14-7 lead after a kill from middle Leigh Goossen.
TWU maintained its seven-point lead at the technical timeout and held an advantage the rest of the way. The Huskies came back late in the set, making it a one-point game at 22-21, but after the teams went back and forth briefly, the Spartans Schriemer finally finished it off in favour of TWU.
GAME NOTES: The Spartans finished the regular season sixth in the Canada West standings with a 14-10 record. TWU beat Calgary in the quarter-finals, coming back to win after dropping Game 1.
Last year, the Spartans lost to Alberta in both the Canada West and CIS championship finals.