(FREDERICTON, NB) They're the defending CIS champs, and they showed it. Even if it took them a while to get going.
The Trinity Western Spartans rallied from two sets down to beat the UNB Varsity Reds 3-2, in exhibition play, at the Richard J. Currie Center, on Thursday evening.
The Varsity Reds dominated the early going, taking the first two sets by scores of 25-19 and 25-22.
And, just when it looked like playing eight matches in seven days, all on the road, was about to take its toll… the Spartans roared to life.
The two sides played a close third set. It was a set that was tied at 7, 10, 18, 23 and 24, before Trinity Western managed to score a 26-24 win.
The fourth set saw the Spartans race out to an 8-1 lead.
The Varsity Reds rallied to tie it 17-17, then take a 20-18 lead on an Elliott Allison kill.
But the Spartans, again, would rally for the win… 25-23.
The fifth and deciding set was a marathon.
The VReds and Spartans traded points well past the 16 mark.
It was 17-17, then 18-18, 19-19, and 20-20, before TWU pulled away.
Leigh Goossen(Kelowna, BC) served an ace to win 22-20 and complete the comeback.
"You never want to be in that position, especially on the service line," said Goossen. "The crowd was really getting into it. It's not what I wanted, but it's in those situations that we improve, and we got the most out of it."
The Varsity Reds were taking some solace in the fact they pushed the defending national champs to five sets.
But, fifth year middle Sam Alves(Melbourne, AUS) said the team has to want more.
"We're playing the best team in the country, and we're competitive, so I think it's definitely a good thing," said Alves. "I just think we shouldn't be getting comfortable. We should want to win these games. Which, I think the boys do, I think we definitely can."
Ryan Sclater(Port Coquitlam, BC) led the Spartans with a game high 21 kills, while Ben Lieuwen(Abbotsford, BC) chipped in 16 kills and 16 digs.
"Overall, it's a great match for our guys to be in," said Varsity Reds head coach Dan McMorran. "If we win that one 3-0, we don't get a chance to see how our legs are. We lose in five, and obviously we want to win every match, but it was exciting for the fans, and I think we're going to gain from that loss, knowing that we played at a pretty good level."
The five-set match was played in front of 493 people.
Spartans head coach Ben Josephson believes they all got their money's worth.
"They punched us in the mouth when we walked into the gym. We weren't ready for that strong of a volleyball team," said Josephson, of UNB. "Once that game started rolling and we started pushing back in the third set, the volleyball that was played on October 6th… you don't see that at this point in any season. That was incredible."
The Spartans and Varsity Reds meet again, Friday, at the Currie Center.
First serve is scheduled for 7:00PM.