LANGLEY, British Columbia – The No. 1 Trinity Western men's volleyball team lost for the first time this season, falling from their undefeated perch after dropping a three-setter 25-21, 25-21, 27-25 to No. 10 Saskatchewan Saturday at the Langley Events Centre.
The Huskies were impressive early on and then held on down the stretch against a hard-charging Spartans side to pick up their first win in Langley in more than 14 years.
The last time the Spartans lost to the Huskies on home court was Nov. 2, 2002. In that game, current Saskatchewan women's volleyball coach Mark Dodds had a match-high 16 kills.
For TWU, this is their first time they have lost a regular season or playoff mathc since Feb. 26, 2016 when the Spartans dropped the first game of the post-season against Calgary. Over that span, TWU had earned 18 consecutive wins.
After the Spartans staved off two match-points, Saskatchewan finally got the winning point after a TWU cross-court attack landed just beyond the sideline.
Andrew Nelson led the offence for the Huskies with 12 kills, while Tyler Epp had 10 kills and just one attacking error to go with a match-high six blocks. Derek Epp had a match-high 35 assists in guiding the Huskies offence to a .269 hitting percentage.
Blake Scheerhoorn (Belleville, Ont.) had 11 kills and just one attacking error for the Spartans, while Ryan Sclater (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) also tallied 11 kills, but was held to a -.085 hitting percentage. TWU hit .144 as a team, which marked its lowest percentage of the season.
"We just got beat pretty bad," said Spartans coach Ben Josephson. "(Saskatchewan) had a different focus level than they did last night and we started the same way as we did last year. We weren't ready to compete in a Canada West battle and they came here to earn a split and that was evident from the look in their eyse and the intensity they played with right from the first point. It took halfway through the second set for us to get into the appropriate mindset for a tough Canada West match. At that point, if you spot a team a set and a half of momentum where you don't push back with the same force that they're pushing you, it's hard to stop a good team from rolling.
"Their seniors were awesome tonight, with (Tyler) Epp and Nelson. That's what you expect seniors to do in their last time to play in this gym. Those kids have never won in this gym and obviously it meant a lot for them to get a win here and they earned it. Epp and Nelson were fantastic and we weren't."
The Huskies took an 8-7 lead in the first set after a Daulton Sinoski kill and never fell behind the rest of the way. TWU evened the scoreline three times in the late stages, but never took a lead. With Saskatchewan up 20-19, the visitors, who hit .429 as a team in the set, tallied five of the final seven points to take the set. Four different Huskies had at least three kills, while Scheerhoorn and Sclater each had four for TWU.
Saskatchewan carried momentum into the second set and quickly built a 10-3 lead. However, TWU rallied, eventually tying the set 14-14 after a Scheerhoorn kill. The teams swapped points, with neither side taking more than a two-point lead until the Huskies went ahead 22-19. Back-to-back kills from Tyler Epp and Derek Epp sealed the win.
With Pearce Eshenko (Edmonton), Jacob Kern (Edmonton) and Mark Antoniuk (Langley) entering the game to start the third set, the Spartans took a 12-9 lead after back-to-back aces from Eshenko. But Saskatchewan responded with a 6-0 run that pushed the Huskies ahead by three. A see-saw battle ensued with TWU eventually taking a 23-22 lead. Two consecutive Saskatchewan points out of a Huskies timeout put the visitors on their first match-point. After twice being held shy of victory, a Sclater error gave Saskatchewan its first ever win at the LEC.
The Spartans are back at home next weekend as they host Thompson Rivers Jan. 13-14. The Huskies have a bye next week before hosting Alberta Jan. 20-21.
Game Notes: Saskatchewan has now taken three of its last four regular season matches against TWU...last year, the Huskies swept the Spartans on home court...TWU did exact a measure of retribution when it beat Saskatchewan in the Canada West championship match...the Spartans are 29-3 over their last 32 matches with the Huskies, including the regular season and playoffs...TWU is 26-12 all-time against the Huskies in the regular season.