EDMONTON – In a thrilling and ultra-close series-deciding game, the University of Alberta Pandas eliminated the Trinity Western Spartans 3-0 (25-17, 27-25, 26-24) in Game 3 of their Canada West quarter-final series, Sunday afternoon at Saville Community Sports Centre.
With the win, Alberta advances to next weekend's conference semifinal in Calgary, and qualify for the 2018 U SPORTS Championship, hosted by Laval. The national championship appearance will be the second straight for the Pandas, and third in the last four seasons.
Sunday's Game 3 was the climax of a back-and-forth series between the two Western Canadian rivals. Alberta cruised to a 3-0 win in Game 1, before Trinity Western stormed back for a 3-1 win in Game 2. The Spartans held multiple big leads in each set in Game 3, but were unable to put away the Pandas, falling 3-0.
Erin Corbett finished with a game-high 15 kills for the Pandas on Sunday, while Kory White finished with 12 on 38 attempts. Fifth-year setter Eryn Orysiuk also had another strong performance for Alberta, leading the match with 40 assists, and adding a game-high 15 digs.
The first set, like all three on Sunday, was decided late. The two foes exchanged points to open the match, fighting to a 14-14 tie. However, a strong run by Alberta saw them take the first 25-17.
The visiting Spartans opened the second set red hot on offence, sprinting out to a 16-8 lead. The Pandas, however, started to chip into the TWU lead following the technical timeout. Corbett finished the set with five of her 15 kills in the second, while Shauny Hogg added four, to go along with three from White. Thanks to the strong play from the trio of attackers, Alberta finished the set on an incredible 19-9 run, winning three-straight points to take the second 27-25.
The third set was easily the most entertaining of the three, as the teams switched leads three times, to go along with five ties, before the Pandas squeezed out another close 26-24 set win. Corbett was once again the catalyst for Alberta, powering them to the semifinal with six more kills in the third.
- With the loss Spartans see their seven-year streak of national championship appearances come to an end.
- This is only the third time in 13 seasons that TWU has not competed for a national title or played in the Canada West semi-final.
- The series win is Alberta's first playoff win over Trinity Western since February 16, 2008.
- Today's match was the final game wearing a Spartan uniform for TWU middle Katelyn Devany and libero Rachel Flink.
Today's match concludes the 2017-18 season for the Spartans. The Pandas will head south to Calgary to take on Dinos in the Canada West semifinal next weekend. The match can be seen live on Canadawest.TV.