The Trinity Western Spartans ensured themselves of a home playoff date after splitting with the host Brandon Bobcats.
The Spartans (11-5) won the first match 3-1 (23-25,25-21,25-23,25-19), while Brandon (8-8) took the second 3-1 (28-26,25-20,19-25,25-16) in a potential playoff match-up.
In Friday’s victory, the Spartans used a 15-to-4 edge in blocks to overcome the early deficit.
“Our middles and our passing was the difference between winning and losing,” said Trinity Western coach Ben Josephson.
“The guys’ hard work over the last two weeks getting ready for this type of match in the areas of our focus and out identity paid off in a pressure type environment.
He said the match felt like a playoff game, which excited his team.
Rudy Verhoeff led the way with a team-high 15 kills, whole Josh Doornenbal added a dozen kills and Lucas Van Berkel finished with 11. Van Berkel also added two service aces and eight blocks.
Josephson was also impressed by the play of middle Dan Jansen Van Doorn, who opened up a lot of opportunities for the team’s wings.
Saturday’s match was marked by offensive struggles, as the team failed to hit over 25 per cent in any of the four sets. They finished at just 16 per cent efficiency, down from their season average of 25.8 per cent.
“We just spent too much time gathering ourselves and by the time the fourth set rolled around, we didn’t have enough gas left,” Josephson said. “It is disappointing, we came out here looking for a sweep and a stranglehold on third place.”
Verhoeff had 16 kills, eight digs and four blocks, while Doornenbal had 11 kills and four blocks to lead the team.
Ben Ball finished with 91 set assists over the two matches.
“We had the same issues tonight that we have been struggling with all season, but we have seen notable progression and improvement in those areas, so we are pleased with the progression we are seeing,” Josephson said. “We are just a little anxious as we would like to see it happen a little quicker than it is.
“Overall, we are moving forward, which is where you want to be at this time of year.”
The Spartans, ranked fourth in the country, close the regular season with a pair of matches against the fifth-ranked Manitoba Bisons at the Langley Events Centre. The teams play Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m.
Both teams are 11-5 and tied for third place in Canada West.
Trinity Western will host a best-of-three Canada West playoff series from Feb. 18-20, with the winner advancing to the Canada West final four championships.
The Spartans are guaranteed a spot at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championships March 3-6 as the host team.