The three-time defending Canada West champion Trinity Western men’s volleyball team enters this season once again with eyes on a championship run. With a loaded roster returning, the Spartans, who have also played in each of the last three U SPORTS championship finals, winning in 2016 and 2017, were ranked atop this year’s Canada West coaches’ poll, as they open the season on the road against UBC Okanagan.
All Canada West volleyball games are streamed live on www.canadawest.tv.
COACH BEN JOSEPHSON
“We’re in a position where we kind of approach every season the same way. I think the talent on the roster over the last couple of years has been good enough to win and we look at this year no differently. We have enough talent on the roster to win the championship. Now, the things that have to go right – the health, the performance, the development, the toughness, the style of play and all those things that go into making a championship run – are the things we’re going to work on all year. But when it comes to this part of the season, I think we’re in the same spot that we’ve been in the last number of years where we are a team that has the talent and the systems and the ability to make a great championship run if we do the things we need to do in the process.”
With the loss of the legendary Adam Schriemer at the setting position, the Spartans will look to second-year Derek Epp (Saskatoon) to take over the TWU’s setting duties. Epp was a member of the U SPORTS All-Rookie Team with the University of Saskatchewan in 2016-17 before transferring to TWU last year and redshirting. Now, Epp, who averaged 8.56 assists per set in his rookie year with the Huskies, is set to lead the Spartans. Behind Epp will be fifth-year Cameron Slomp (Edmonton).
On the outside, the Spartans will be led by superstar third-year Eric Loeppky. Last year, Loeppky led Canada West in points per set (5.0) and hitting percentage (.362), was second in aces (0.61) and fourth in kills per set (4.05). Over the summer, Loeppky, who was a U SPORTS First Team All-Canadian last year, also proved himself on the international stage, as he represented Canada with the senior men’s team at the prestigious Jerzy Wagner Tournament in Poland. Along with Loeppky, fourth-year Jacob Kern (Edmonton) has rounded into an impressive option on the left or right side and be an imposing option alongside Loeppky. Fifth-year Ben Lieuwen (Abbotsford, B.C.), first-year Brodie Hofer (Langley) and even second-year Jackson Howe (Calgary), who has worked as both a middle and right side in preseason, will give TWU plenty of options on the outside.
In the middle, TWU has a three-pronged monster that is as good as any team in the country. With Aaron Boettcher (Surrey, B.C.) returning to the fold after missing all last year with shoulder surgery, and Pearce Eshenko (Banff, B.C.), who averaged 1.07 blocks per set last year, back for his fourth year, TWU’s notoriously strong middle is once again a strength. Add to that Jackson Howe (Calgary), who was a Canada West All-Rookie Team member, and the Spartans are in good shape in the middle.
Fifth-year Carter Bergen (Winnipeg) will once again solidify the Spartans in the back row. Last year he averaged 2.19 digs per set, but his mere presence on the court will steady the entire team. Look for Bergen to be a key leader throughout the season for the Spartans. Colton Loewen (Abbotsford, B.C.) will also be a regular sub for TWU in the back row.
TWU SPARTANS | BY THE NUMBERS
2018-19 CW pre-season coaches poll: 1st
2017-18 CW regular season record: 22-2, 1st
2017-18 CW post-season record: 5-0, CW champions
Head coach: Ben Josephson (12th season) / 175-57 (Career CW reg. season record)
Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2018 / 5
Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships: 2017 / 5
2017-18 CW regular season ranks:
Points per set: 17.1, 1st
Kills per set: 12.81, 1st
Hitting percentage: .311, 1st
2017-18 CW regular season leaders:
Kills: 356 – Eric Loeppky, LS
Digs: 171 – Carter Bergen, LIB
Blocks: 90 – Pearce Eshenko, MH
Aces: 54 – Eric Loeppky, LS
Assists: 920 – Adam Schriemer, S
Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):
Brodie Hofer / OH / 1 / Langley, BC / Langley Christian
Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):
Adam Schriemer / S / Winnipeg / 5
Mark Antoniuk / L / Langley, BC / 5
Recognized for quality, TWU has received seven consecutive A+ rankings for Quality of Teaching and Learning, holds three Canada Research Chairs, and wins national championships in CIS sports. More importantly, lives are changed at TWU through its whole-person, Christ-centred approach to education. With a wide array of undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree-completion programs, TWU equips leaders of character and competence to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
About Spartan Athletics
As official members of U SPORTS, the Spartans currently compete in 10 sports in the Canada West conference, including women’s and men’s soccer, volleyball, basketball, cross country and track & field. TWU also competes in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) in men’s hockey. Since TWU entered U SPORTS in 1999, the Spartans have won 11 U SPORTS team championships and 25 Canada West team championships.
[SOURCE: Trinity Western]