by Jessica JiYoung Kim
After dropping two in a row for the first time since October last weekend in Alberta, the T-Birds men’s volleyball team was looking to regain some respect heading into the final weekend of the season.
No. 5 ranked UBC closed out conference play with a bang, sweeping the defending national champions, the No. 2 ranked Trinity Western Spartans in a pair of weekend contests at War Memorial Gym.
In the ultra-competitive and ultra-tight Canada West conference— which houses five of the top six men’s volleyball teams in the country—Friday’s win over the Spartans vaulted the Thunderbirds into third place in the conference, and in the process put an end to an eight-match losing streak against their Langley based rivals.
Friday night’s game at War Memorial Gym was dominated by the T-Birds from beginning to end, as they took the match in straight sets 25-17, 25-23, 25-22.
The home team set the tone in the opening set with exceptional serving from first-year Christoph Eichbaum.
The second set saw the T-Birds repel an inspired Spartans rally after a strong defensive showing put them ahead 8-3 early. After falling behind 23-22, UBC rattled off three straight points to take the set.
In the final set the Spartans regrouped to take a brief lead, but a strong run midway through by the T-Birds staked them to a 20-15 lead and all but sealed the victory.
“Tonight, it was all business for us. We just went out and took care of business. The energy was high at all times and there weren’t too many lapses,” said fourth-year standout Andrew Bonner following the match.
“I’m pretty proud of our guys. We really handled ourselves out there, especially in the second set when we were down few points in the middle. We just fought back and played hard,” continued Bonner.
The win over the Spartans was as inspirational as it was important, putting the T-Birds back on the winning track after a disheartening pair of five-set losses to Alberta—the top team in the country — last weekend.
“It was tough playing after losing back to back. But we said we don’t care about winning or losing. We just want to gain some respect and play some good games,” said Eichbaum.
The Thunderbirds carried on the momentum from Friday night into Saturday’s match. Led by a game-high 29 kills from Bonner, it appeared like another straight-set victory was in order until the Spartans came back to claim the third and then the fourth set. The final set went to the T-Birds, who sealed the deal with Eichbaum’s 17th kill of the evening.
“I’m happy with the result and I think we can still play better. We are just excited to play in our own gym in few weeks for playoffs. We had a bit of a tough start to the season on the road in Winnipeg losing our first two matches of the year. We’ve just been wanting to play our best all year and we are still accomplishing that as much as we can,” said head coach Richard Schick.