The Brandon Bobcats are all that stand in the way of the Trinity Western Spartans earning a sixth straight trip to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championships.
And the Spartans have won 15 straight matches — including two over the weekend against the Thompson Rivers WolfPack in the Canada West quarter-finals — to get to this point, but the last team to beat them just happened to be the Bobcats, who split a weekend set with TWU back in November.
TWU, which was 20-4 during the season, is ranked second in the country and Brandon is right behind them at third in the rankings with a 19-5 record.
The game will be played Friday afternoon in Edmonton as the University of Alberta hosts the Canada West Final Four championships.
The other semifinal pits No. 1 Alberta against No. 8 UBC.
Against the WolfPack, the Spartans won 3-1 (25-19,23-25,25-18,25-20) on the first night and then 3-0 (26-24, 25-20,25-14) to complete the two-game sweep.
A big key to their victory in game two was having 13 service aces and 14.5 blocks, which made up for the fact the Spartans had just 26 kills.
Coach Ben Josephson thought his team was in for a long night when they blew an 18-14 lead in the first set. The Spartans were down 24-22 in the set but scored the final four points to win the set and never looked back.
“Then after the second set, we had figured out what they were up to and then our serving just kept going. But they scrambled like crazy and had a billion digs and that’s why this was the quarter-final opponent that we were most scared of,” Josephson said.
“Brad (Gunter) is the best attacker in the country and they’re one of the best defensive scramble team we’ve ever competed against. Thank goodness tonight we were able to terminate enough blocks that we didn’t have to scramble as long.”
Gunter is the reigning CIS player of the year, but was held to just four kills.
The Spartans were led by Nick Del Bianco, who had 10 kills, six digs, six blocks and an ace. Blake Scheerhoorn had six kills, three digs, two blocks and an ace.
In game one, Del Bianco had 16 kills while Ryan Sclater had 11 and Scheerhoorn had 10.
Setter Adam Schriemer had 34 assists to set up the offence. Tyler Koslowsky had 15 digs.
As a team, the Spartans hit .412 for the match.