LANGLEY, British Columbia – The Trinity Western Spartans will advance to the Canada West semi-finals after a 3-0 win over the visiting Mount Royal Cougars Friday night at the Langley Events Centre in Langley, B.C. The 29-27, 25-16, 25-13 victory gives the Spartans a Canada West quarter final sweep, 2-0, of the Cougars.
Third year outside Hilary Howe (Calgary) with 11 kills, six blocks and eight digs, fourth year middle Mikaelyn Sych (Airdrie, Alta.) with nine kills, seven blocks and three aces, and fifth year outside Ashtyn McKenzie (Vernon, B.C.) with seven kills at .438, and four blocks led the Spartans attack. Second year outside Haley Roe (Airdrie, Alta.) with 11 kills and third year outside Cassidy Kitchen (Terrace, B.C.) with seven kills, 10 digs, and four blocks were the stand-outs for the Cougars.
TWU fourth year setter Brie King (O'Reilly) (Langley) finished with 31 set assists to lead the Spartans to a .252 attack (37-11-103), while MRU's second year setter Quinn Pelland (Wanham, Alta.) with 27 set assists had the Cougars finish at .072 (31-23-111).
The opening set had numerous extended rallies. The two teams were balanced early on and were tied 8-8. MRU was able to gain a small lead, and after a kill by Haley Roe they led 16-14 at the break. The Cougars extended their lead as the set progressed and after a cross court kill by Cassidy Kitchen had set point at 24-22. A kill from Hilary Howe and a MRU ball handling error made it 24-24. TWU had their first set point after a kill by Mikaelyn Sych put the Spartans up 25-24. The Cougars held off three more Spartan set points. Then, at 27-27, Sych got a dump attack to give TWU a 28-27 led. Sych then went back to the end line and closed of the wild opening set with an ace to give TWU the 1-0 lead with a 29-27 win. Sych with three kills and three aces led the Spartans in the opening set, while Roe with six kills led the Cougars.
The Spartans quickly took control of the second set with a 3-0 run. TWU expanded the lead to 5-1 after Sych and King blocked Cassidy Kitchen. The Spartans continued to expand their lead and forced the Cougars into a time out with an 11-4 lead. Second year middle Avery Heppell (Langley), who finished with five kills, sent the Spartans into the break leading 16-8 after her step attack found the open floor. The teams exchanged points for the remainder of the set until the Spartans' Asyton McKenzie blocked the Cougars fifth year middle Nicky Zalasky (Bragg Creek, Alta.) to give two the set 25-16 and a 2-0 set advantage. Sych had another four kills in the second set, with Howe added three kills to lead TWU in the second set. The Spartans hit .345 in the second set to the Cougars .054.
TWU carried the second set momentum into the third set to take a quick 3-0 lead. The Spartans continue to roll and expanded the lead to 11-4 and force the Cougars into a timeout after an Asyton McKenzie attack. MRU made a run to close the gap to five points, 15-10, before Hillary Howe blocked Nicky Zalasky to give TWU the 16-10 lead at the break. TWU never let MRU into the set as the Spartans took the final set after a kill by Savannah Purdy gave TWU the set 25-13, and the match 3-0.
TWU Head Coach Ryan Hofer
On the ability to rally to win opening set.
"We have talked about staying aggressive and playing free. To be courageous you have to be able to do that under stress. It's easy to do it when you have a lead, but what can you do when you are under stress. I thought we did a really good job of that, especially in the first set."
On their ability to slow down the Cougars attack.
"We were really mindful tonight on our blocking line-ups. Something that we did not do a good job with last night. By fixing it and tweeking it a little bit it prevented them from getting easy points and extended the rallies. I feel our block lineups made a tremendous difference in the outcome of tonight's game.
On Sych and McKenzie.
"Sych was outstanding tonight and she is a threat in the front row. And Asyton, we found at key times. She knew what she needed to do and she was able to follow through on it."
- Last night the Spartans defeated the Cougars 3-2 (26-24, 25-12, 13-25, 20-25, 15-10)
- TWU finished with 13 blocks to MRU's 7.5 blocks. The Spartans also had an 8-4 edge in service aces.
- The Spartans are now 18-0 all-time against MRU since the Cougars joined Canada West in 2012-13. Last night was the first time MRU has taken two sets in a match from TWU.
- TWU won both games against MRU in the regular season, beating the Cougars in Calgary in early February (3-1 and 3-0)
- Prior to last night TWU and MRU have met in the playoffs once before, with the Spartans winning the Canada West best-of-three quarter-final series in two games, beating the Cougars 3-0 and 3-1.
- TWU has hosted a Canada West quarter-final series in 13 of the last 14 seasons. Last year was the first time in 12 years they didn't host a quarter-final series.
The Spartans will now host the Canada West semi-final on Thursday, February 28 at the Langley Events Centre. Game time is to-be-determined.
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.