EDMONTON – The University of Alberta Golden Bears did their best Rocky impersonation against the Trinity Western Spartans. One night after being on the receiving end of a severe knockout blow from the defending U SPORTS champions, Alberta (1-1) responded with an epic five-set (13-25, 19-25, 25-19, 25-21, 15-13) comeback victory over Trinity Western (1-1) Saturday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Second-year outside hitter Jordan Canham set a career high, leading the Bears with 17 kills, while third-year outside hitter Jackson Kennedy chipped in with 11 kills and five digs.
Fourth-year outside hitter Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) led the Spartans with 22 kills in the loss. Jacob Kern (Edmonton) added 14 kills, while Pearson Eshenko (Banff, Alta.) had 10 kills and a team-high six blocks. TWU setter Derek Epp (Saskatoon) had 55 assists and a team-high seven digs.
The Golden Bears struggled in the season-opener on Friday and the rematch started off in similar fashion for Alberta as the Spartans controlled the opening set from start to finish and the Golden Bears had a hard time getting their attack going.
It was more of the same in the second set as Alberta had just 15 kills through the first two sets, but in the third set, the Golden Bears offence kicked into gear and it was led by Canham.
The Newington, Ont. product had 13 of his 17 kills in the final three sets to really spark the Bears.
Even after Alberta got the third-set win, they had to dig even deeper in the fourth set to force the fifth and final set. The two Canada West powerhouses battled back and forth with TWU leading 9-8, and later 14-13, but Alberta was able to go on an 11-6 run to close out the fourth set.
In the fifth set, Canham, fourth-year middle George Hobern, and Kennedy all came up huge on the attack to complete the comeback.
Ben Josephson – TWU Head Coach
“This was another chapter in the epic Spartans/Bears rivalry. The first two sets went exactly like yesterday. We stormed the gates early on, but then in the third set they got a little bit better and we continued to give up some points and had some unforced errors. The way they play played in the last three sets was really impressive. They had great rhythm and their hitters were aggressive and their servers and passers held up well. When volleyball is equal, the team that wins is often the one that cares a little more or has a little more character and fight, and tonight that was the Bears and not the Spartans.
“Both teams had great offensive performances, but their servers and passers were a little better in the last three sets than ours. I think it’s a bit of a reality check for us. We fell to our low end and the Bears raised their game to a really high end. That was impressive on their part and a little bit disappointing on our part. We have to own our performance and our preparation and we have to go back to work and be tougher in those tight matches. I believe we’ll be up for the challenge next time.”
The Spartans return to the Langley Events Centre Oct. 25-26 when they host Winnipeg in their home-opening weekend.
About Spartan Athletics
As official members of U SPORTS, the Spartans currently compete in 11 sports in the Canada West conference, including women’s and men’s soccer, volleyball, basketball, cross country and track & field, as well as women’s rugby sevens. TWU also competes in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) in men’s hockey and as an independent team in men’s rugby. The men’s and women’s hockey programs will begin playing in Canada West and U SPORTS in 2020-21. Since TWU entered U SPORTS in 1999, the Spartans have won 12 U SPORTS team championships and 27 Canada West team championships and two BCIHL championships.
[SOURCE: Trinity Western University]