Sports

Spartans crowned champs

Teammates swarm Marc Howatson after he delivered the game-winning ace which gave the Trinity Western Spartans a second straight CIS men’s volleyball national championship on Sunday in Kingston, Ont.   - Scott Stewart/TWU Athletics
Teammates swarm Marc Howatson after he delivered the game-winning ace which gave the Trinity Western Spartans a second straight CIS men’s volleyball national championship on Sunday in Kingston, Ont.
— image credit: Scott Stewart/TWU Athletics

It was 90 minutes before his team’s CIS national men’s volleyball semifinal game when Trinity Western Spartans starting setter Ben Ball finally emerged from his hotel room.

Immediately following his team’s quarter-final victory over Dalhousie the night before, Ball had rushed back to the Spartans’ hotel.

He spent all night vomiting and all day in bed.

To make matters worse, his back-up, Devyn Plett was also sick and sharing a hotel room with Ball.

Ball, one of three graduating seniors on the team, was a “little bit worried” this was how he would spend his final days in a Spartan uniform.

“I was getting tons of text messages and Facebook email from people praying for me,” Ball said on Monday, from the Ottawa airport where the team was awaiting its flight home.

“It was really encouraging to hear all that support I had and all the people who were thinking and praying for me.

“I really think God gave me the strength to play in that game because I didn’t really eat all day and I don’t think I could have done it (played) otherwise.”

Ball emerged to take the court, both in Saturday’s victory over the host team from Queen’s, and then the next afternoon, against the Laval Rouge et Or, in the championship final.

The Spartans won both games, 3-0 in the semifinal and 3-1 in the final, to capture the program’s second straight Tantramar Trophy, as the CIS men’s national champions.

Ball, who felt much better by Sunday, was named the tournament’s most valuable player. He was also named the CIS player of the year at Thursday’s awards banquet.

“That (award) is a huge credit to my teammates,” Ball said.

“Everyone was playing incredible, which made it a lot easier on me.”

“It feels awesome (to win again); the season has been pretty incredible.”

The Spartans went a combined 34-2 against CIS competition, including 24-1 in league play and playoffs.

And after they dropped that lone match, the team lost just four sets over the final 10 matches.

“If we hadn’t lost to Manitoba in the middle of the season, I don’t think we could have pushed through against Laval in the finals,” Ball said.

“Laval came out flying and we had to turn to each other and learn from the one loss we had.”

Laval won the opening set 25-19, but the Spartans responded by winning 25-19, 25-17 and 30-28.

“Ever since that loss (to Manitoba), this group has been unbelievable, at a level I have never seen before,” said coach Ben Josephson.

The coach also raved about the play of Ball, especially considering the circumstances.

“We didn’t even know if he could stand up,” Josephson said.

“We were pretty concerned but he battled through it and then got better for the final.”

With Ball quarterbacking the offence, the Spartans had a team hitting percentage of .400, a number much higher than normal. By comparison, Laval’s attack percentage was .175.

“I think the guys picked up their play to a level I haven’t seen,” Josephson said. “I think they rallied to protect Ben. As Marc (Howatson) said, “he has made us look so good this year, let’s make sure he looks good.’”

Trinity Western Spartans' trio of graduating seniors — Ben Ball (left to right), Rudy Verhoeff and Marc Howatson — accepted the Tantramar Trophy and CIS championship banner at Queen's University on Sunday.

Dan Jansen Van Doorn was named player of the match in Sunday’s final. Rudy Verhoeff and Steven Marshall were named tournament all-stars.

Ball, Verhoeff and Howatson are the team’s graduating seniors.

The Spartans cleaned up at the CIS awards banquet last week, winning four of the five major awards.

In addition to Ball winning the CIS player of the year, Josephson was named coach of the year, Jarrod Offereins was the top libero and Verhoeff won the Dale Iwanoczko Award, which is presented to the player who shines not only on the court, but in the classroom and the community.

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