by Howard Tsumura
Special to the Langley Advance
They’re best described as Team Turnaround, because the mid-season re-invention of the Langley Trinity Western Spartans men’s volleyball team from tired, ineffective also-rans into national champions was stunning even for its own players to comprehend.
“I’m speechless,” said lone Spartans senior Tyler Koslowosky after his team completed a miracle turnaround from an unranked, .500 team to CIS national champions on Saturday following its 3-1 (19-25, 25-20, 26-24, 25-16) win over No. 1-ranked McMaster on the Marauders’ home court in Hamilton, Ont.
“It’s literally unbelievable. I don’t know how we came together like we did. It’s just crazy.”
That’s about the best way to sum it up.
While the Spartans are not exactly unaccustomed to the surroundings of the national tournament.
Saturday’s win gave the Langley school its third Canadian crown in six years and its fourth overall.
They were nonetheless a 9-9 team in January in danger of missing the conference playoffs before morphing into one that looked almost unbeatable in fashioning a 12-2 finish.
“When they started producing some wins the wheels started to grip the earth,” said TWU head coach Ben Josephson.
Even with their late-season surge, the big question heading into Saturday’s final was whether or not the Spartans would have enough energy in reserve to give the Marauders a fight.
In Friday’s semifinals, McMaster easily swept past Saskatchewan 3-0, but the Spartans ran into their conference archrivals from Edmonton and needed the full five sets to beat the University of Alberta Golden Bears 3-2 (18-25, 25-20, 25-19, 20-25, 15-11).
After Trinity Western dropped its opening set to McMaster the next day, Josephson was concerned about his team’s inability to communicate within the confines of deafening Burridge Gym.
“The crowd was insane,” Josephson said. “We could barely hear ourselves think. They were playing great and the wall of emotion against us was unreal. We were making uncharacteristic mistakes, but the part of the reason was that we couldn’t communicate.”
Eventually, the Spartans’ wheel began to gain traction again.
With Scott Plocktis and tournament MVP Blake Scheerhoorn’s dual 13-kill performances leading the way, as well as a healthy team advantage in both blocks (13-5) and aces (9-4), the Spartans were able to make the 2015-16 season the eighth straight in which teams from the school have been able to bring home a CIS national championship banner.
“It’s when we realized that there was no tomorrow that we took our game to a new level,” said TWU’s Adam Schriemer.
Added the Spartans’ tournament all-star Ryan Sclater: “We just ended up being a team that was super tough and super resilient.”
Howard Tsumura is a reporter with the Vancouver Province