This is what it means for a program to be at a crossroads. The Women’s volleyball team successfully qualified for nationals for the fifth time in seven years. That accomplishment in itself is noteworthy as it shows that Trinity Western University’s women’s volleyball is now competitive on the nation’s main stage. These past two years have laid a solid foundation for the future with four wins in six matches at nationals. The Spartans’ results at nationals and at the Canada West Final Four have definitely proven one thing though; this program clearly has not arrived as a legitimate contender.

Photo credit: Scott Stewart

Perhaps the Spartans should be satisfied with where the team is right now. The Spartans finished fourth in the regular season standings and needed to win a playoff series over Calgary and then win at least one match at the Final Four to qualify for nationals. The Spartans were not favoured to do those things but the girls got the job done by beating Calgary and then winning a Canada West bronze medal in straight sets over Winnipeg. The bronze medal is fine; a program has to start somewhere, but the result from the night before that match is rather troubling. The Spartans were soundly defeated by UBC in the Canada West semi-final with dominant scores of 25-17, 25-12, and 25-20. If the defeat at the hands of the Thunderbirds did not tell the Spartans that they have not arrived yet, the results from nationals in Hamilton, Ontario certainly did.

The Spartans took the back door route into the national tournament and landed the number six seed in the eight team tournament. The Spartans drew the University of Montreal Carabins in the opening quarterfinal match; what ensued was a contest that will haunt the Spartans dreams for the entire off-season. The Spartans came into the game as the lower seed and therefore the “underdog.” However, it is easy to argue that TWU was the better team on the floor. It is difficult to look at the statistics from the game and reconcile what happened. The Spartans had a big night from the attack line with 124 total attacks compared to 97 attacks from the Carabins. The Spartans were also far better at scoring on those attacks as TWU out-killed Montreal 47-29. The Spartans committed a few more errors from the attack line but still had an advantage in attack efficiency with a .161 attack percentage in contrast to Montreal’s painfully low .072. The Spartans also beat the Carabins in digs at 44-24 and blocks 16-13. It was at service line however, that it all went wrong. The Spartans quite simply gave this game away with a season high 20 service errors. The Spartans lost a close first set 22-25 and then responded with one of their best sets all season with a 25-11 victory. The Spartans then stayed close with the Carabins throughout the third and fourth sets and had chances to assert themselves but TWU ultimately did themselves in at the service line en route to 21-25 and 23-25 losses.

The Spartans did rebound nicely in the consolation bracket with victories over Queen’s and Saint Mary’s to capture 5th place, but this season will ultimately be remembered as a study in what could have been. This program has reached a crossroads; the team is now perennially good but never great. In light of the success from the men’s team, the women’s team needs to figure out how to take that last step toward greatness before they get permanently left in the dust.

Cameron Stuerle

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