Playing in front of a raucous crowd of blue and gold supporters, the Trinity Western Spartans outlasted the Alberta Golden Bears on Friday night at the Langley Events Centre.
The five-set victory advanced the Spartans to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport mens volleyball national championship semifinals on Saturday night at 8 p.m.
“Our identity shone through today,” said Spartans coach Ben Josephson.
The teams traded sets, with Trinity Western winning the first and third sets 25-23 and 25-17, while Alberta countered by taking sets two and four, 25-23 and 25-21.
But in the decisive fifth set, the Spartans raced out to a 5-0 lead and never looked back, winning 15-11.
Rudy Verhoeff led the attack with 17 kills, while Josh Doornenbal had 14.
Nick Del Bianco also did a great job coming off the bench to chip in with seven kills.
Alberta was led by Spencer Leiske, who had 13 kills, while Jay Olmstead had a dozen and Simon Lidster had 10.
Josephson said it was a great match, with both teams taking turns seizing momentum. But the key was neither side would let up when they fell behind.
“Both teams were very resilient,” he said.
“That is exactly what I expected.”
The Golden Bears were the top seed in the Canada West during the regular season before stumbling in the playoffs, finishing fourth at the Canada West championships.
And it was just a week ago, the Spartans defeated the Golden Bears for the Canada West bronze medal.
The Spartans were seeded fourth for the CIS nationals, while the Golden Bears were fifth.
It may have not been an ideal first-round opponent, but Josephson said to be the best, you have to beat the best.
“If you want to win a national championship, you have to beat whoever is across the net from you,” he said.