LANGLEY, B.C. – Trinity Western's Avery Heppell (Langley) had a career-high 15 kills to go with five aces to lead the No. 2-ranked Spartans to a 3-1 (15-25, 25-19, 25-17, 25-22) win over No. 1 Calgary Saturday at the Langley Events Centre. The win completes a weekend sweep of the top-ranked Dinos and keeps the Spartans perfect record intact through the first 12 games of their regular season.
The victory also sends TWU into the Christmas break having won all 21 matches, including the preseason, of the fall semester. Having dropped both matches this weekend against TWU, the previously unbeaten Dinos are now 10-2 on the year.
Along with Heppell, TWU's Hilary Howe (Calgary) had 12 kills, including six in the decisive fourth set. Howe also had five blocks. Ashtyn McKenzie (Vernon, B.C.) had eight kills and 10 digs, while Mikaelyn Sych (Airdrie, Alta.) had seven kills and match-high eight blocks. Setter Brie King (Langley) had 40 assists, four kills and four blocks. Libero Emma Gamache (Abbotsford, B.C.) had 21 digs.
Calgary's Kate Pexman and Hannah Tanasichuk had 12 kills each, while Emma Kastelein had a team-high eight blocks. Pexman also had four aces. Kennedy Snape had 21 digs.
TWU finished with a .219 hitting percentage, while Calgary hit .193. At the net, it was TWU with a 12-9 edge in blocks.
After a quick start from the Spartans in the first set, the Dinos took over with a 10-1 run that saw Calgary take a 12-5 lead after Tanasichuk earned one of her six kills in the set. Calgary extended its lead to as much as 11 points, 22-11, after a Pexman ace before taking the set by 10 points. Calgary hit .154 and had four aces, while TWU hit -.059 with just one ace.
TWU responded in the second set, building a 5-1 lead and pushing its advantage to 10-3 after an ace from King. The Dinos never got back into the set and TWU held on for a six-point win. Heppell had five kills in the set to lead TWU, who hit .343. Calgary's Pexman had a team-high four kills in the set, while Tanasichuk was held to just one kill.
With momentum in their corner, the Spartans opened a 10-4 lead in the third set and continued to run way with the set. Heppell had another six kills to go with two aces in the set and TWU took the set by eight points after hitting .367. Pexman and Kenzie Vaandering each had three kills for Calgary.
In the fourth set, TWU surged ahead midway through the set with a 4-1 run that put the Spartans ahead 12-9. The teams traded points until the technical timeout, with TWU continuing to hold a three-point edge. Holding a 24-20 lead, the Spartans appeared primed to end the set and match, but a game Dinos side tallied back-to-back points to force TWU to take a late timeout. However, out of the break, a Dinos serving error ended the match.
Ryan Hofer – TWU Coach
"We didn't do much different after that first set. We settled in, played our game with the same emotions that we need and make the shots we need to make. I told them to stay aggressive and if we do that, balls will start landing in the court. We needed to keep swinging hard and by doing that, it puts pressure on their block and their defence. In the end, being able to beat Calgary brings a level of confidence that we can play with any team in the country."
On the fall semester
"We've worked really on our thoughts. What is the right mindset that is going to help us perform at a high level consistently. And, then, it was about thinking through what we need in different circumstances. The team has worked really hard on this and we talk about it almost every day."
• TWU is closing in on a program record for wins to start the season. The Spartans won 13 straight to begin the year in 2015-16. That year, TWU went on to win both the Canada West and U SPORTS championships.
• The last time TWU was involved in a match between the top two teams in the country was in 2015-16, when the No. 2 Spartans hosted No. 1 Alberta. The teams split the weekend series. That year, the Spartans went on to win their second straight Canada West championship and a U SPORTS silver medal.
The Spartans will have a month off before getting back on the court Jan. 4-5 with a trip to play Brandon. Calgary will prepare to compete in the University of Alberta's post-Christmas tournament (Dec. 29-30) before returning to regular season action Jan. 4-5 on the road against UBC Okanagan.
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.