HAMILTON, Ont. - The Trinity Western men’s volleyball team will be pursuing history this weekend, as the Spartans look to become the first team in the Spartans illustrious history to win three straight U SPORTS championships.
With the Spartans in the midst of an unprecedented era of dominance – TWU has won five consecutive banners, including three straight Canada West championships and back-to-back U SPORTS titles – TWU has one more mountain to climb to put the finishing touches on the greatest three-year run in the history of U SPORTS men’s volleyball. No team has ever won both the conference and national championships in three consecutive years.
Leading the way on a relatively young roster – TWU has two rookie starters and a second-year starter – has been setter Adam Schriemer. The team’s lone fifth-year starter, who was named the Canada West Player of the Year, has done a masterful job in guiding this year’s group to both a program-best 22-win regular season and yet another conference crown.
Schriemer, who finished his regular season career fifth all-time in Canada West history, with 3,448 career assists, had a conference leading 10.57 assists per set, while guiding TWU to a Canada West best .311 hitting percentage. After helping TWU to the regular season title, he took his game to yet another level in the post-season, as last year’s U SPORTS tournament MVP averaged 11.22 assists per set in the Spartans five Canada West playoff contests.
While Schriemer’s surrounding cast may be young – libero Carter Bergen is TWU’s only other starter who is beyond his third year of eligibility – the Spartans burgeoning talent is amongst the very best in the country.
On the outside, the three-pronged attack of Eric Loeppky, Jesse Eflser and Jacob Kern have been nothing short of outstanding this year.
Loeppky, who was last year’s U SPORTS Rookie of the Year, has continued on an almost otherworldly upward trajectory, as the second-year star was named a Canada West First Team All-Star after an MVP-type year. Loeppky finished the regular season with the second most points per set in the country, at 5.0, while earning a .362 hitting percentage, which was good for third in U SPORTS. His work from the service line was also impressive, as he finished with the second most aces per set (0.61) in all of U SPORTS. In five playoff games, Loeppky has been even better, improving his kills per set from 4.05 in the regular season to 4.50 in the playoffs, while hitting .397.
Meanwhile, the first-year Elser put together one of the most dominant rookie seasons the program has ever seen, hitting .301 while earning 2.84 kills per set. His 0.48 aces per set also put him fifth in Canada West throughout the regular season.
While much of the limelight has found its way upon TWU’s young attackers, third-year Jacob Kern has stepped into the starting lineup this year and consistently been a pillar of strength for TWU. His 2.89 kills per set had him second on the Spartans, solidifying TWU’s outside attack.
In the middle, the high-flying duo of third-year Pearson Eshenko and first-year Jackson Howe has created a tandem that, in terms of sheer size and block touch, is unmatched across U SPORTS. Eshenko finished the year 10th in U SPORTS with 1.07 blocks per set, while Howe was 16th overall with 1.00 blocks per set.
Defensively, TWU’s Bergen has been a steadying force in the back row. He is a vocal and emotional leader and will play a key role in any success the Spartans have at nationals.
The five-time U SPORTS champion Spartans will return to McMaster University this weekend looking to once again enjoy the now-familiar confines of Burridge Gymnasium. With two of the Spartans five national championships coming on McMaster’s home court – in 2006, TWU won its first-ever title by beating Alberta, while in 2016, the Spartans beat the host Marauders in the final – TWU has dreams of making more history in Hamilton.