LANGLEY, B.C. – The UBC Okanagan men's volleyball team take a set off a rolling defending national champion in their home opener as the Heat fell to the No. 1-ranked Trinity Western Spartans 3-1 (25-23, 25-20, 23-25, 25-12) on Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
Thje Spartans hadn't dropped a set on the year in conference play until the Heat did the trick when they took set three.
UBCO's Lars Bronemann led the Heat with eight kills, while Joshua Harvey had a team-high five blocks.
Second-year Eric Loeppky (Steinbach, Man.) led the TWU offence with 13 kills to go with a match-high six aces and six digs. Pearson Eschenko (Banff, Alta.) had seven kills, three blocks and three aces from the middle. Setter Adam Schriemer (Winnipeg) had 32 assists while also nabbing five kills.
The win improves to the Spartans to 3-0 on the season, while UBCO drops to 0-3.
Neither team was particularly efficient with the Spartans hitting .194 and UBCO hitting .047. The Heat had a 9-8 edge in blocks.
Home town rookie
First year UBCO player Max Heppell, who graduated from Langley Fundamental this past June, returned to his hometown and showed well in the hostile environment and nerve wracking situation playing in front of family and friends in your second week of USPORTS competition. Heppell, forced into the starting lineup with the injury to 2016-17 Canada West rookie team member Kyle Hinchey, he finished with seven points on five kills and four blocks.
After the Spartans took 9-7 lead in the first set, the Heat reeled off seven straight points, capped by a block from Max Heppell and Caleb Funk, to go ahead 14-9. TWU responded with four points of its own, sparked by a Ben Lieuwen (Abbotsford, B.C.) kill to get back in the set. From there it was back-and-forth until a Lieuwen kill launched another 4-0 run. A kill from Jacob Kern (Edmonton) finished the set for TWU. The Spartans hit just .062 while UBCO hit .045.
The Spartans took a 10-5 lead in the second set and were in control throughout. Loeppky had four kills in the set to lead TWU to a five-point win. The Spartans had four aces to UBCO's two, while collecting also four blocks to the Heat's three. A UBCO service error gave the Spartans the set. Both teams continued to struggle offensively, with TWU hitting .167 and UBCO hitting .158.
In the third set, TWU got off to another good start, opening a 5-1 lead after back-to-back kills from Eshenko. Then, it was Eshenko registering his third kill of the set to put the Spartans ahead 10-4. But the Heat responded, clawing back to even the set 17-17 before taking a 19-18 lead. A Bornemann ace put UBCO ahead by two at 21-19. Four straight points put TWU back ahead only to see the Heat tally four in a row themselves, capped by a Heppell kill to win the set and extend the match.
With TWU first-year outside Jesse Elser (Calgary) entering the fray in the fourth set, TWU took an 11-6 lead and rolled to a convincing win. With Loeppky putting up three aces in the set, the Spartans finished the task with a 13-point win. TWU, who improved its hitting percentage in each set, hit .345 in the fourth set, while holding UBCO to -.222.
• TWU is 13-0 all-time against the Heat.
• The Spartans raised their Canada West and U SPORTS championship banners in a pregame ceremony.
• Including their preseason, the Spartans are 16-0 in 2017-18. Over that span, TWU has only lost seven sets.
• Dating back to last year's playoff run while also including this year's exhibition slate, TWU has won 26 consecutive matches.
The teams meet again Saturday night at the LEC. First serve is at 7 p.m. The action will be live on CanadaWest.TV.
~ With notes from Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University