Trinity Western Spartans Elizabeth Wendel rises up for the kill during her team's victory against the Alberta Pandas at the Langley Events Centre. The Pandas evened things up with a win on Saturday night. Both teams entered the weekend undefeated.

Spartans, Pandas split heavyweight showdown

Trinity Western, Alberta both entered weekend unbeaten on the season

In a battle of the country’s top two teams — neither of which had yet to lose – it was a draw between the Trinity Western Spartans and the Alberta Pandas.

The Spartans — ranked second — struck first winning 3-1 (25-23,25-23,21-25,25-18) on Friday night at the Langley Events Centre. And TWU had the top-ranked Pandas on the ropes in the rematch the next night, up two sets to none before Alberta reeled off three straight to take the match 3-2 (22-25,22-25,25-20,25-23,15-13).

Both teams are 13-1 in Canada West conference play.

The Spartans were up in the third set on the Saturday night before a rotation error turned the set, and ultimately, the match in favour of the Pandas.

“I’m not too sure if we were out of rotation or not, but regardless of that, there was definitely a momentum shift after that,” said Spartans coach Ryan Hofer. “We had a lot of things going in our favour and things changed in that moment, but we have to be mentally tough in order to deal with stuff that doesn’t go our way.”

The loss was the team’s first defeat in 25 CIS matches, which included a victory over Alberta in the CIS championship final last year.

Sophie Carpentier led the Spartans with 19 kills while Elly Wendel had 14 and Rowyn Neufeld had 10. Wendel also came up with 22 digs while Mariel Garcia and Nikki Cornwall each had 21 digs. Cornwall also had 42 assists as the Spartans hit .118 as a team.

Carpentier (18 kills) and Wendel (14 kills) led the attack in Friday’s victory as the team hit .246 for the match.

“This team fights. We’re not going to give up and we’re not going to back down,” Hofer said.

“When you play a team like Alberta, they’re going to test you and expose things that you need to work on and we’re going to be better for it.”