Spartans best in the west
After three back-and-forth sets, two of which were won by the Manitoba Bisons, the Trinity Western Spartans dug deep and won the final two sets convincingly, capturing the Canada West men’s volleyball gold medal.
“Resilience,” said Spartans setter Ben Ball about what was key for his team.
“The first three sets were extremely tight.
“We just stuck with it and made adjustments.
“We just wanted to stay confident and focused on what we were doing and things started to turn around in the second half.”
The first three sets were all decided by two points apiece, but facing defeat if they dropped the fourth set, the Spartans won convincingly, 25-14. The fifth and deciding set went 15-9 for Trinity Western.
Regardless of this weekend’s outcome at the Canada West final four championships, which were hosted at the Langley Events Centre, all four teams were guaranteed to move on to this weekend’s CIS national championships at Queen’s University in Kingston.
The Spartans, the defending national champs, are ranked first at the eight-team event.
Ball said it was important for the team to win the Canada West gold medal because they wanted the highest seed possible.
It was also a chance for Ball and the team’s two other graduating seniors — Rudy Verhoeff and Marc Howatson — to win their final game ever at the LEC.
The Spartans also became the first-ever men’s volleyball program to win four of the conference’s five year-end awards.
Ball was named the player of the year, Jarrod Offeriens won the libero of the year, Verhoeff was the top student-athlete, and Ben Josephson won coach of the year.
Ball and Verhoeff were also named Canada West first-team all-stars while Steven Marshall was a second team all-star.
“It feels good obviously, but it won’t feel nearly as good if we don’t win nationals,” Ball said about his individual award.
“It will be a good addition if we win nationals.
“That is the main goal of this entire year.”
Josephson also downplayed his award.
“It means we have a great volleyball team,” he said.
“All awards are team awards in this sport.”
Josephson said he was impressed with how his team responded with their backs to the wall.
Since losing to Manitoba on Jan. 27, the Spartans won their next six matches — including the Canada West semifinals — dropping only a single set along the way.
“We needed to feel like what it feels like to lose and the guys responded really well in the fourth and fifth set,” he said.
Going into this weekend’s national championships, Josephson said the team has work to do.
“We are going to have to clean some of that stuff up because I don’t think the effort is good enough to win nationals,” he said.
“It was barely good enough to win the conference.”
One thing working in his team’s favour is the fact they have won the big prize before.
“We know what it takes, now it is are we willing to do it and are they willing to pay that price?”