Sunday March 6th, 2011
Langley Events Centre
Langley, British Columbia
Trinity Western Spartans vs. Brandon Bobcats
The hosting Spartans blazed their way through an incredibly difficult road to the finals. First, they squeaked out a five set victory over the Alberta Golden Bears. Next was another five set thriller against the Calgary Dinos. Brandon's path came a little easier, without one match against a Canada West opponent up until the finals. But nothing is easy about playing against the Spartans in Langley. The Trinity Western faithful filled their standing section to the brim and more. Fans were flooding into the aisles, each remaining standing for the entire duration of the match. Body paint was everywhere, and it was hard to see the whole court through the maze of bodies. Brandon had a task in front of them if they truly desired to be crowned National Champions.
The Trinity Western audience, exploding at every moment possible, put their home team in the mood to come out of the gate running. Semi-Final Spartans' player of the game, 11 Rudy Verhoeff, put away a monstrous kill early to push the Spartans ahead 7-4. Another amazing set from 14 Ben Ball allowed for 5 Joshua Doornenbal to paint the line with a backcourt attack. A Doornenbal block, followed by a Doornenbal kill from the right side put Trinity Western ahead 15-10.
Even though Trinity Western missed their next serve, the first set was obviously theirs from beginning to end. The home Spartans sent a message by putting together a 10-1 run to end the first set decisively. On set point, the Bobcats couldn't manage to get anything past the Spartans' block despite incredible digging efforts. The digging allowed for at least five separate attacks, but each was blocked, and eventually the Bobcats attack went wide for the 25-12 Spartan set victory.
Ben Ball continued his impressive setting in the second frame. First, he made Doornenbal look great with a perfect backcourt set. Then, the setter provided a rare solo block to go ahead 14-7. However, Brandon weren't about to let Trinity Western run away with the last, and most important game of the year. Rather than taking their time, the Bobcats stormed back with a 9-2 run to tie the set 16-16. A Bobcats' ace, followed by an attack directly into the net from Spartans' Doornenbal gave Brandon their first lead of the match at 20-19.
Brandon's 5 Paul Sanderson, a staple of their offence, tried to salvage a set from the Bobcats' starting middle. The attempt went for naught as Sanderson got blocked for his efforts. On the next play, Spartans' 12 Lucas Van Berkel pulled off an incredible one handed dig made entirely on impulse reaction. Trinity Western immediately managed to transition into a kill from Verhoeff for a 23-21 lead. On their first attempt at set point, Verhoeff powered an attack that Brandon's 8 Kevin Miller couldn't possibly be expected to dig. Trinity Western won their second consecutive set, this time by a score of 25-22.
One set way from the CIS National Championship, Trinity Western continued their pattern of starting quickly out of the gate. They pulled ahead to a 9-5 lead due to a solid quick from Van Berkel. However, Brandon managed to time Verhoeff's next attack and roofed the fourth year Spartan. Trinity Western's Van Berkel was unable to close the block on the next play, and Verhoeff blasted his next attempt long. Suddenly, the game was tied 10-10.
Paul Sanderson then took on a quest to prove why he's such an intergral part of Brandon's team. On one play, he served, made the key dig, and transitioned immediately into a kill from the backcourt. Soon after, he put another backcourt attack through the Spartan block. Two consecutive Spartan attacking errors extended the Bobcats' lead to 15-11.
That's when Trinity Western's Doornenbal turned his game back on. He redeemed an attack wide with a hard backcourt kill to end the Bobcats' streak at 11-3. Next, he put up a huge block. Brandon did manage to dig the ball, but it still resulted in a kill from the Spartans on their next attack. Verhoeff was next to get in on the action, as he put up a huge block after his squad could only manage a free ball due to a tough dig. The Spartan's were back in it down 16-15.
The Brandon Bobcats' Jon Sloane entered the game at this point. He had played a few points in the first set, but Brandon opted to keep him on the bench for the majority of Nationals. The reason had something to due with the soft cast Sloane wore on his left hand. He was nominated a second team Canada West all-star this year, and it was obvious the Bobcats wanted to use him where they could. However, his contributions were limited. As he entered the third set, he managed to put a hard attack through the Spartans' block to give Brandon a real chance to win the set with a 23-20 lead.
Overanxious, the Bobcats put their next attack wide. Running with the momentum, Trinity Western put together a tough double block to force a Brandon time out at 23-22. Coming back from the break, Brandon's 6 Justin Pikel completely mishandled his serve receive to tie the game. However, it was still Brandon that managed to pull ahead for the first set point of the third stanza.
The Spartans' 3 Marc Howatson put away a big kill down the line from power to tie the set once again. Brandon was right there to respond, as Kevin Miller blocked a Spartans' roll attempt. However, Miller immediately undid his good deed by missing his serve. Surely, set point during the Gold Medal Match of the CIS National Championships is no time to be missing your serve.
A scrambling play caused Bobcats' Sanderson to completely mishandle a set attempt, and Trinity Western went ahead 26-25. The one-point lead gave the host Spartans' their first match point with a gold medal on the line. The Spartan crowd all took to their feet and raised a single finger, indicating the points remaining, high in the air. Even though the school's enrollment only reaches about 4000, it seemed as though there were that many Spartan supporters crammed into the Langley Events Centre. The pressure was just too much for the Bobcats', and their attempt at an attack was driven directly into the centre of the net. Trinity Western won the point, set, match, and National Championship with a 27-25 third set victory.
After taking the bronze medal at the Canada West Final Four one weekend earlier, the Trinity Western Spartans upgraded their hardware to gold at the time it was most important. The win crowns Trinity Western as the CIS Men's Volleyball National Champions for 2010-11. The Spartan faithful, as they had in the semi-final, stormed like rabid animals on to the court. The celebration came full with a gatorade shower for head coach Ben Josephson.
Trinity Western's Rudy Verhoeff earned himself Player of the Game, First Team All-Star, and Tournament MVP for his impressive play throughout the weekend.
The impressive straight-set victory closed the book on University volleyball this year. Canada West took every medal, as Brandon took silver two weeks consecutively.
The remainder of the First Team All-Stars were as follows:
Laval's Karl De Grandpre
Alberta's Jay Olmstead
Brandon's Paul Sanderson
Brandon's Kevin Miller
Calgary's Graham Vigrass
and Trinity Western's Ben Ball.
Notably absent from the selections was Alberta's Spencer Leiske, who was easily the most intimidating offence weapon seen throughout the tournament. Playing in the consolation bracket may have worked against him, though his teammate Jay Olmstead managed a nomination.