Langley (with files from Scott Stewart, TWU Athletics) – Women’s Volleyball: Cascades fall to No. 4 Spartans in three sets
The University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team found themselves on the wrong end of a weekend sweep, as they fell to the Trinity Western Spartans on Friday evening in Langley.
The U SPORTS No. 4-ranked Spartans followed Thursday’s three-set win with a 25-16, 25-8, 25-18 triumph in Friday’s rematch at the Langley Events Centre. The hosts improved to 5-1, while the Cascades enter the Christmas break at 1-5.
“The credit needs to go to Trinity,” UFV head coach Janelle Rozema observed. “This is the best team the best team we’ve played so far. This is the top, and we got an awakening this weekend of how big that gap is right now.
“In a timeout, we talked about how this is where we want to be. We don’t want to be in a weaker division, playing weaker teams and having closer games. We want to be here with the best and shown this is the best. Otherwise we’ll never know what we’re reaching for.”
The Spartans took control early, jumping out to a 7-1 lead in the first set. The two teams exchanged points through to the media timeout with TWU up 16-9 after a Savannah Purdy kill, and the hosts pulled away for a 25-16 win, hitting a scorching .441 in the set.
Trinity Western continued to roll in the second set, jumping out to leads of 6-0 and 9-1. The Spartans outscored the Cascades 9-2 after the media timeout to take it 25-8.
The Cascades showed their quality in the third set – they scored the first three points of the frame, capped by a Grace Warkentin ace, and were level at 16-16 after a Kristen McBride kill. It was all Spartans from that point, though, as they closed on another 9-2 run highlighted by three Meaghan Mealey kills.
Sadie Wilson’s six kills led the Cascades, setter Cailin Bitter had 16 assists and added four kills, and libero Emily Matsui’s seven digs were a team-high.
Purdy, with 10 kills at .455, led the Spartan attack, while Mealey and Kaylee Plouffe each added six kills.
The Cascades volleyball teams return to conference action Jan. 14-15, when they host their long-awaited home openers vs. UBC Okanagan.
“What we’re developing in this first semester is our resiliency,” said Rozema. “If these are the kinds of things we’re encountering now and we’re developing coping skills, I think it’s going to help us long-term.”
Men’s Volleyball: Cascades push top-ranked Spartans to the limit, fall in epic five-setter
The University of the Fraser Valley men’s volleyball team put a mighty scare into the nation’s top-ranked team, falling just shy of a colossal upset in an epic five-set match vs. the Trinity Western Spartans on Friday night in Langley.
UFV won the first and third sets, but the Spartans were able to battle back to win it 19-25, 25-14, 23-25, 25-19, 15-12.
The Cascades (0-6), in the midst of their first Canada West/U SPORTS campaign, departed still in search for their initial victory at the highest level of Canadian university volleyball, yet showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have it in them to play at an elite level. The Spartans (6-0), meanwhile, emerged with their undefeated record intact.
“It sucks to lose, but the guys had so much growth today,” UFV head coach Nathan Bennett said afterward. “We pushed the best team in the country – could be the best team in North America – to the brink. The guys should be super-proud. I’m super-proud. It’s a really good way to go into the Christmas break on a high like this.”
Spartans head coach Ben Josephson, likewise, was impressed with the battle level he saw on the other side of the net.
“That was incredibly impressive for a young program,” said Josephson, who earlier in the week was named head coach of the Canadian senior men’s national team. “Last night they didn’t look like that, the last time we played them (in the preseason) they didn’t look like that. But tonight? That’s big-boy Canada West stuff.
“I told Nate after the game, I’m so incredibly impressed with how long that group stayed tough, stayed together, and held their energy. When a team is playing on the edge of the emotion like they were almost the whole match, you expect it to kind of slow down. We kept talking about it – hey, if they give us an inch, let’s step on the gas. There was just never that moment. They stayed tough, they stayed inside their tactics, they had amazing energy together, and they were incredibly resilient. We tried lots of cool stuff, and it all just worked ‘medium’. There was nothing we could rely on because they had an answer.
“That was big-boy Canada West volleyball. For a team that’s new to the league to show that kind of toughness, in their first semester? That’s a great testament to their staff and their athletes.”
The Cascades got off to a strong start on Friday behind second-year outside Nimo Benne, who converted five of six attacks attempted throughout the first set. As a whole, UFV’s efficiency at the net was where they made their mark, putting down 52 percent of their swings. The Spartans, meanwhile, struggled mightily in the first set, committing a total of 11 errors.
The Spartans came out with a completely different brand of energy in the second set, led by Isaiah Olfert who had five kills as TWU took it 25-14.
In the third set, the Cascades reeled off five straight points with Eduardo Ferreira at the service line, capped by a Tyson Ardell kill, to go up 19-15, and they took advantage of several Spartan attacking errors down the stretch to take it 25-23.
The Cascades pushed to close out the match in the fourth, and were level at 15-15 after a Jonas Van Huizen kill. But the Spartans scored the next three points, and would later go on a five-point run with Olfert at the service line to extend the match.
UFV was in great position as the fifth set moved past its midway point, going up 10-8 after a kill from Caleb Kastelein. The Spartans would go on a 7-2 run to close things out, though, with Brodie Hofer notching two crucial kills during that stretch.
“Belief comes with success, and at the end of the day, they have to see it to believe it,” Bennett said, analyzing his team’s confident performance. “Once they started to see some success come, they started to believe in themselves more. And that’s great. It’s something I’ve known for a long time – it’s in this group. Now they believe it themselves, and that’s a big thing.”
Benne was a dynamic presence for the Cascades, racking up a team-high 18 kills and eight digs and hitting .342. Rookie middle Ardell turned in the best performance of his young career with nine kills and zero errors on 14 swings, Van Huizen posted 38 assists, and Ferreira contributed seven kills. UFV’s defensive work at the net was pivotal – they had 10 blocks to TWU’s five, with Noah Bouius leading the way with six block assists.
Hofer had a huge night for the Spartans, notching 35 points (29 kills and six aces). Olfert finished with 14 kills, and setter Mathias Elser had 43 assists and three aces.
The Cascades return to conference play Jan. 14-15, when they host the UBC Okanagan Heat in their Canada West home openers.