Spartans take national championship

Trinity Western overcomes early deficit to beat Laval in national final

The Spartans celebrate after winning their second straight national championship.
The Spartans celebrate after winning their second straight national championship.
Laval fans contest a call in Sunday's championship.
Laval fans contest a call in Sunday's championship.

Trinity Western won their second consecutive national championship with a 3-1 victory against the Laval Rouge et Or on Sunday, establishing the Spartans as a powerhouse in Canadian university volleyball.

“It’s a bunch of great kids. That’s really what it is,” Spartans coach Ben Josephson said. “You recruit character and then you let them train and you let them blossom to become better young men and then they’re committed to each other, they’re committed to their relationship with Christ.

“They’re complete champions.”

The last team to win back-to-back CIS gold medals was the Alberta Golden Bears in 2008 and 2009.

This was the Spartans’ third gold medal in seven championship appearances and the Rouge et Or’s fifth silver medal in 29 championship appearances. The third-seeded Rouge et Or were the underdogs against the first-seeded Spartans — the Spartans only lost one game to Canadian competition all season.

The Rouge et Or came out strong in the first set, winning 25-19. Laval fans taunted Spartans outside hitter Steven Marshall, who made three reception errors during the set.

“They came out fast,” Josephson said. “We were expecting a lot of emotion. They hungered. You watched the way they celebrated [after winning the semifinal] last night — those guys wanted that, they wanted that bad.”

After a disappointing first set, the Spartans turned it around and won the second set 25-19 and the third set 25-17.

“We were a bit hesitant, a bit nervous, maybe all the pressure got to us finally, but eventually we got into it, then we became ourselves again,” Spartans captain Rudy Verhoeff said.

With the fourth set tied 24-24, the two teams changed leads four times before deciding a winner. The Rouge et Or made late service errors and couldn’t put the game away. Marshall made back-to-back kills and Trinity Western won the set 30-28.

“We knew they were going to respond with emotion,” Verhoeff said. “[We tried to] stay steady through the first bit, separate in the middle, then finish in the end. We didn’t get that separation in the middle, so that’s why it was a tight set 30-28. Then, we got a little tentative at the end – we had a few championship points that we clenched up on. Finally, Marc had a nice serve to get the win.”

Verhoeff was the Spartans’ leading scorer with 13 kills. Laval first-team All-Canadian Karl De Grandpré led the Rouge et Or with 18 kills.

Laval coach Pascal Clément said the final rallies of the championship proved that university volleyball deserves more attention in Canada.

“We’re one of the best CIS shows in Canada and they have to support volleyball more,” he said. “We need as much credit as basketball, as football. We need to get not only web [broadcasting] but TV for this.”

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