EDMONTON – The Trinity Western women's volleyball team suffered a heartbreaking loss against UBC in the U SPORTS Quarter-Finals, falling 3-2 (25-23, 27-25, 23-25, 23-25, 16-14) Friday at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
In a match that saw all five sets decided by two points, the Spartans battled back from a two-set deficit to force a fifth and deciding set, but the Thunderbirds prevailed to advance to the U SPORTS semifinals.
The Spartans will now play in the consolation semifinal Saturday at 12 p.m. (PT) against Montreal, who lost to Dalhousie in the second semifinal of the day.
Hilary Howe (Calgary) had a team-high 18 kills for the Spartans while Avery Heppell (Langley, B.C.), who was TWU's Player of the Game, had 15 kills out of the middle to go with four blocks and two aces.
Second-year outside hitter Kiera Van Ryk posted a career-high 32 kills in leading UBC to the victory, while senior outside hitter Victoria Behie and fourth-year middle Tessa Davis chipped in with 12 kills each for UBC.
On paper, this may look like an upset between the No.1 and No.8 seed, but on the floor it certainly wasn't as these two fierce rivals put on a show in a match that featured 24 lead changes and neither team held more than a three-point lead through five sets. The match was tied an incredible 53 times.
UBC took the opening two sets by the slimmest of margins and despite their 2-0 lead, the T-Birds couldn't afford to take the pressure off.
Neither team could grab any momentum and take control of the match and the Spartans weren't going to go away easily. The tournament's No.1 seed and Canada West champions weren't going down without a fight.
Heppell who had 15 kills for TWU, came through with a big block in the third set to end an incredibly long rally and give the Spartans a 19-17 lead. After UBC tied it up at 23-23, a Brie King (Langley) kill regained the lead, and the Spartans held on to take the third set and keep their hopes alive.
The fourth set went right down to the wire, and a Howe kill sent the match the distance in this battle between two of the best programs in Canada.
UBC controlled the majority of the fifth set, but TWU battled back to take an 11-10 lead, but it was the Spartans only lead of the fifth set. The Thunderbirds capitalized on a couple service errors and back-to-back kills by Van Ryk finished the job and sent UBC into one of Saturday's semifinals.
Van Ryk, who was named the 2019 U SPORTS women's volleyball Player of the Year on Thursday came up big in critical moments of the quarterfinal.
Players of the Game
UBC: Samantha Patko
Trinity Western: Avery Heppell
Ryan Hofer – TWU Coach
"That was the closest match I've ever coached in. Ever. There was zero room for error. We've been in this situation before. We asked the team to be resilient and play each point one at a time.
"We wanted to fight, battle and compete and we knew UBC would do the same, and they got it this time."
Doug Reimer – UBC Coach
"It's unbelievable. I've been around this game a long time. Been part of a lot of great games, but I don't think I've ever been part of a game like. There was no quit in either team. A game like this is what you train for, and you have to feel so much gratitude that you come out on the positive side of a game like this.
"I'm speechless. It's a testament of the resilience of both teams to play two hours and 20 minutes and leaving absolutely everything on the floor."
Kiera Van Ryk
"Trinity (Western) played so well, and they pushed us and pushed hard and they almost took it away from us. We played our heart out. We've been through some adversity this year and I'm so proud of our team.
"The first set was a little rocky, but I thrive in these games. Nationals are when I really fire it up. You put some much work in the gym and watching video to get to this point in the season, and you don't want it to go to waste. You have to put everything you have into this tournament."
• TWU is now 1-3 all-time against UBC at the U SPORTS championship tournament.
• The Spartans are 6-5 all-time in quarter-final matches at the national championship.
• In each of the four previous quarter-final losses (2006, 2009, 2012 and 2014), TWU bounced back to win its next two games to finish fifth.
• The Spartans have never finished lower than fifth in their 11 championship appearances.
Recognized for quality, TWU has received seven consecutive A+ rankings for Quality of Teaching and Learning, holds three Canada Research Chairs, and wins national championships in CIS sports. More importantly, lives are changed at TWU through its whole-person, Christ-centred approach to education. With a wide array of undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree-completion programs, TWU equips leaders of character and competence to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
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.