Trinity Western Spartans' Nick Del Bianco (#18) and Lucas Van Berkel (#12) are expected to lead the men's volleyball team this season. The Spartans open the season ranked third in the country.

Trinity Western Spartans' Nick Del Bianco (#18) and Lucas Van Berkel (#12) are expected to lead the men's volleyball team this season. The Spartans open the season ranked third in the country.

Spartans ready for tough task

Only top two teams from Canada West qualify for nationals despite fact four of current top five are from conference

  • Oct. 23, 2013 11:00 a.m.

The last time the Trinity Western Spartans were coming off a non-championship season, they brought out a silver medal from the previous year and kept it close by.

It was a reminder of how close they had come with their second-place finish at the 2010 Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s volleyball national championships the year before.

And the Spartans used that constant reminder to capture both the 2011 and 2012 titles.

There is no medal to look at from the 2012 season after the Spartans qualified for nationals, but were upset in the quarter-finals and finished sixth.

“We really felt that the loss in the quarter-finals was a product of poor fundamentals,” said TWU coach Ben Josephson.

“I think we were trying to make up for our weaknesses but we overlooked the things that made us successful in the first place. So this time we have a renewed focus on just doing the small things and the details and getting those things right.”

“I think we have enough talent on the team that if we do the small things, we should at least have a shot at competing for something that matters.”

The Spartans — who open the Canada West season this weekend with a home-and-home series with UBC Friday at the Langley Events Centre and Saturday in Vancouver — start the season ranked third in the country.

Josephson said it is hard to say what the season will bring but he knows his team is in tough.

The Canada West is consistently the toughest conference in the country and this year is no different as the conference boasts four of the country’s top five teams.

But unlike in years past when three or four teams from Canada West would qualify for nationals, the conference only has two berths in 2013/14.

The amount of berths per conference is allocated based on how each conference did the previous year.

Both Alberta and Trinity Western were upset in the national quarter-finals and finished fifth and sixth, respectively.

In years’ past, Canada West had typically produced three of the top four finishers at nationals.

“There are going to be some pretty great teams not getting to the tournament,” he said.

The Spartans may not be as tall as in previous years, but they do have speed and athleticism.

Nick Del Bianco and Brad Kufske should lead the offence with Lucas Van Berkel and Brandon Schmidt creating an impressive blocking tandem.

Adam Schriemer and Scott Plocktis will battle for the starting setter’s job while Tyler Koslowsky returns as the starting libero.