EDMONTON – The Trinity Western Spartans captured their second straight U SPORTS Men's Volleyball Championship, defeating the host Alberta Golden Bears 3-1 (25-20, 25-20, 27-29, 25-23), Sunday night at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
The 2017 U SPORTS FOG Men's Volleyball Championship win by Trinity Western gives their men's volleyball program five Tantramar Trophies in their history. This is also the second time the Spartans have won back-to-back national titles, with the others coming in 2011 and 2012.
"Whenever we play the Bears at this time of the season, it always turns into one of these classics. Two really great volleyball teams putting on a show," said TWU coach Ben Josephson. "I'm just so proud of our kids for dealing with that environment and we have these great leaders on our team that pushed through.
"In games like this, it has nothing to do with volleyball, because both teams are great at this point. It has everything to do with how much you can care for the guys beside you, and make them better. It is a great showcase of volleyball in U SPORTS. I'm just proud to have been a part of that match."
Fifth-year Spartan, and 2017 U SPORTS Men's Volleyball Player of the Year Ryan Sclater (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) finished his career with a 12-kill performance, adding eight digs and five block assists.
"I'm just so grateful to be a part of this team. It's going to be hard to leave these guys behind," said Sclater. "That's the thing I love the most, just playing every day with my best friends. I'm just really grateful I could be a part of this. I'm proud of how we fought back, how we found ways to get through and win when it wasn't easy."
Fourth-year Spartan Blake Scheerhoorn (Belleville, Ont.) finished with a game-high 22 kills on 43 attempts, committing only three attacking errors. Spartan setter Adam Schriemer (Winnipeg) led the Spartans offence with 48 assists on Sunday, earning the 2017 U SPORTS FOG Men's Volleyball Championship MVP.
Fifth-year middle Taylor Arnett led Alberta with 16 kills in his final U SPORTS game, adding two total blocks. Fellow graduating student-athlete Brett Walsh also chipped in 48 assists, eight digs and an ace.
For the first time in the program's history, the Spartans men's volleyball team has now earned four straight championship banners, including both the Canada West and U SPORTS championships in both 2016 and 2017. Along the way, TWU has won 14 playoff games in a row.
In each of TWU's last three championship-winning games, the Spartans have knocked off the home side to win it all, including the 2016 national championship when they beat McMaster, the 2017 conference championship when they beat Manitoba and Sunday's win over Alberta.
The Spartans have won four of the last seven national championships and have played in six of the past eight U SPORTS gold medal matches.
Beating Alberta evened TWU's all-time U SPORTS championship record against the Golden Bears at 4-4. The teams are 2-2 in championship matches, with TWU winning in 2006 and 2017 and Alberta winning in 2005 and 2015. The last time the Spartans beat the Golden Bears to win the national title, in 2006, TWU earned a shocking three-set victory at McMaster University in which the Spartans won 25-21, 25-8, 25-16. Spartans assistant coach Steve Rogalsky had a team-high 11 kills in that match, while Golden Bears coach Brock Davidiuk had 25 assists for Alberta.
"I thought we worked really hard tonight. Our guys were really wound up to start, we let a lot of really easy balls drop to start the match. It's a really good team we were up against," said Alberta coach Terry Danyluk. "We can't afford to let them hit something that isn't a tough shot, and not scooping those balls up when you have the opportunity. They are really well coached, they adapted, we adapted, but we ran a little short when the time came."
Scheerhoorn was unstoppable in the opening set, going a perfect 7-for-7 with his attacks, leading Trinity Western to a 25-20 opening-set win. What is normally the greatest part of the Bears team, their middle blocking, worked against them in Sunday's final. The Spartans stuffed Alberta three times in the opening-set win and 15 times in the match.
The second set was one dominated by Sclater, as well as the Spartans tremendous pressure generated off their serve. Sclater found the floor with five kills on just nine attempts, while adding one of the five Spartans aces. In a set that saw eight ties and three lead changes, the Spartans were better late, taking the second by the same score as the first set.
Alberta got to within one set of their Canada West foe, winning one of the best sets of volleyball this season, 29-27 in the third. The Golden Bears also had to fight off two championship points in the set, thanks to a pair of massive kills from Arnett.
"The third and the fourth sets is when that game turned into some truly great volleyball," continued Josephson. "The first couple sets I thought our service pressure put them into some trouble, and then they tightened that down. That's probably the best they have passed all season. Coming off last weekend, I can only imagine how hard Terry Danyluk, Brock Davidiuk, and Dale Johns coached up that team. They worked really hard tonight. That's the best they played all season. Talk about peaking at the right time, and it turned into an epic (match)."
Alberta's peak, however, wasn't high enough, as the Spartans captured the championship with another back-and-forth set win, 25-23 in the fourth. With the set tied at 21, a kill by Aaron Boettcher (Surrey, B.C.), coupled by three attack errors by the Bears gave Trinity Western the match. Boettcher also earned the championship-winning point, blocking Arnett in the middle for his 14th block of the night.
"We got comfortable with not being smooth at times, not winning points the way we are used to," said Sclater about his team's performance in the fourth. "Alberta was blocking really well. We had to make some good shots that weren't scoring, but we found a way to grind through that, and come out on top."
The Spartans men's volleyball team is now tied with TWU's women's soccer team with a department-leading five national championships in their history. The men's volleyball team won in 2006, 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2017, while the women's soccer team won in 2004, 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2013.
With the national title, TWU as an athletic department has captured a U SPORTS championship in nine consecutive seasons.
The Spartans have earned a total of 11 national banners, including five in both men's volleyball and women's soccer and one in women's volleyball (2015).
TOURNAMENT AWARDS & ALL-STARS
Tournament MVP: Adam Schriemer - Trinity Western University
Tournament All-Stars: Ryan Sclater - Trinity Western University
Adam Schriemer - Trinity Western University
Blake Scheerhoorn - Trinity Western University
Ryan Nickifor - University of Alberta
Taylor Arnett - University of Alberta
Brett Walsh - University of Alberta
Brandon Koppers - McMaster University
Kills: Blake Scheerhoorn (22)
Points: Blake Scheerhoorn (24.5)
Blocks: Aaron Boettcher (7.5)
Digs: Ryan Sclater and Carter Bergen (8)
Service aces: Eric Loeppky (4)
Player of the match: Aaron Boettcher
Kills: Taylor Arnett (16)
Points: Taylor Arnett (18)
Blocks: Taylor Arnett and George Hobern (2)
Digs: Taryq Sani (12)
Service aces: Taryq Sani, Alex McMullin, George Hobern, and Brett Walsh (1)
Player of the match: Brett Walsh
SCHEDULE & RESULTS (All times MT)
Friday, March 17
1:00 p.m. QF 1: No 1 Trinity Western 3 vs. No 8 Waterloo 0 (25-18, 25-15, 25-23)
2:30 p.m. QF 2: No 5 McMaster 3 vs. No 4 Laval 2 (25-16, 25-11, 23-25, 19-25, 17-15)
6:30 p.m. QF 3: No.2 Manitoba 1 vs. No. 7 Alberta 3 (18-25, 25-23, 21-25, 16-25)
8:00 p.m. QF 4: No.3 UBC 3 vs No.6 UNB 1 (25-22, 25-20, 22-25, 25-17)
Saturday, March 18
1:00 p.m. Consolation #1: No. 4 Laval 3 vs No. 8 Waterloo 0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-17)
2:30 p.m. Consolation #2: No, 2 Manitoba 3 vs. No. 6 UNB 0 (25-20, 25-15, 25-22)
6:30 p.m. Semifinal #1: No. 7 Alberta 3 vs. No. 3 UBC 2 (25-23, 25-15, 20-25, 20-25, 15-11)
8:00 p.m. Semifinal #2: No. 1 Trinity Western 3 vs. No. 5 McMaster 1 (23-25, 25-14, 25-17, 25-21)
Sunday, March 19
12:00 p.m. 5th place: No. 4 Laval 1 vs No. 2 Manitoba 3 (25-22, 26-28, 25-23, 25-22)
3:00 p.m. Bronze: No. 3 UBC 0 vs No. 5 McMaster 3 (25-14, 27-25, 25-17)
6:00 p.m. Gold: No. 1 Trinity Western 3 vs No. 7 Alberta 1 (25-20, 25-20, 27-29, 25-23)