by Paul Owen
Archive photo courtesy Uwe Welz / U of Alberta Athletics: Spencer Leiske's double-double lifted Alberta to a five-set victory and another conference title on Sunday
EDMONTON - It required weathering a furious charge from the Trinity Western Spartans, but the University of Alberta Golden Bears managed to do just that to claim their third consecutive Canada West men's volleyball banner with a 3-2 (25-17, 25-21, 23-25, 22-25, 15-9) victory over the Spartans Sunday afternoon at the U of A's Pavilion.
Alberta stormed out of the gate, taking advantage of a TWU team notorious for their slow starts, and took control of the first two sets. However, once the Spartans got going, they were able to come back and force a fifth set before the Alberta attack overcame them. It was the exact type of tight, playoff-atmosphere volleyball that Alberta head coach Terry Danyluk was hoping the Canada West Final Four would produce for his team.
"I think it was good to play a tough match. We were up 2-0, and Trinity pushed us, and I think we needed to be pushed before we go to the championship. If we had breezed through today, who knows how we would have been playing next weekend (at Nationals). I think we know now that teams have got what it takes to beat us if we're not careful," he explained.
"These are two of the teams that could win the whole thing next weekend, right? That's about as good as it's going to get."
Five Bears finished in double figures in kills, with Spencer Leiske (4th, Lacombe, AB) leading the way with 15. Thomas Jarmoc (5th, Calgary) and Jason DeRocco (3rd, Winnipeg) had 14 and 13, respectively, while middles Simon Lidster (4th, Calgary) and Justin Merta (4th, Quesnel, BC) served to mix up the Bears offensive attack with 11 and 10.
"We kept them off-balance because we used our middle early," Danyluk said.
"I thought (setter) Mike (DeRocco) got away from setting them (in the third and fourth sets). He got a little too complacent going outside, and that plays into their defensive system."
For Trinity Western, a silver medal and a presumable seed in the top-half of the bracket at next weekend's national championships is overshadowed by continued struggles getting on the board early.
"We're notorious slow starters, and it's something we've been talking about and addressing all season long. You can't go down two sets to a team as good as U of A," said TWU head coach Ben Josephson, who noted that that adage applied to any of the teams they would face next week at TRU.
"It's playoffs, top of the pyramid. Everybody left is great, and you can't spot anyone an advantage. You have to keep teams under pressure all night if you want to beat them."
Steven Marshall (2nd, Abbotsford, BC) led the way offensively for the Spartans with a game-high 22 kills, while libero Jarrod Offereins (2nd, Calgary) was a vacuum during the TWU rally, finishing up with 14 digs.