In the first match of the national championship that went the distance, the Trinity Western Spartans overcame a two-set deficit to defeat the Montreal Carabins 3-2 (23-25, 23-25, 25-20, 25-21, 15-11) to claim the U SPORTS bronze medal.
Sophie Carpentier tallied a game-high 27.5 points, picking up 19 kills and seven aces for the Spartans, while fellow senior Elizabeth Wendel added 15 kills. Trinity Western claimed its third national medal in a row after taking gold and silver in 2015 and 2016 respectively, and fifth in program history. “I was really pleased with the way we performed, we showed a lot of resilience not only in that after a tough loss yesterday,” said Spartans coach Ryan Hofer. “With broken hearts they came in and just wanted to end their season on a really high note.”
On the comeback, Hofer stated that “we were playing good volleyball, we had to tweak a few things whether it was blocking… or just execution on our side. and I felt the girls made a few little changes there that hopefully was going to (tip the scale) a little bit.”
The Carabins were led by a 27 point performance from Marie-Alex Bélanger. The fourth-year tallied 23 kills for Montreal, who were looking for their second bronze in the last three national tournaments. “It was a really good game; we played really hard in the first two sets,” said Montreal coach Olivier Trudel. “We faltered a little bit in terms of our energy and discipline. And we lost a bit of that consistency, and Trinity maintained that consistency and played really well so they deserved the bronze.”
“Trinity just continued to put a lot of pressure on their serving and we didn’t. We backed off a bit on our serves. They played a few tips that got us frustrated and we thought we had that covered but there was a lot of miscommunication. They did what we expected them to do, but they did it a little bit better.” After going down early in the first, Montreal took six of seven points to move ahead by a pair. Trinity Western responded, and consecutive blocks by the Canada West bronze-medalists capped a mini-streak to move them in front by three. Coming out of a timeout, the Carabins battled for four-straight to even the match.
After an astounding sequence that saw the Carabins come up with multiple acrobatic digs before the Spartans were finally able to put the ball away, Montreal took that momentum to score the next two on a kill by Alexane L. Joly (Bois-de-Boulogne) and ace from Rachel Gagnon (Bois-de-Boulogne), grabbing a 16-14 lead at the technical. Carpentier (Ottawa, Ont.) responded with a pair of kills for the Spartans, pushing them into the lead, which Wendel (Caronport, Sask.) extended to three. Joly brought the deficit down to two with a right-side attack, and another great defensive response by the RSEQ champions ended with a Spartan attempt that clipped the net and went out of bounds.
Belanger evened the match with an attack that went through Trinity Western’s block to even the game, and another error by the Spartans gave Montreal a set-point. An ace by Mikhaella Blanchette (Gatineau, Que.) gave her squad a one-set lead. After going down by a pair, Brie O’Reilly (Langley, B.C.) followed a solo block with a kill to move Trinity Western briefly in front at 12-11. Consecutive attack errors thwarted the Spartans leading up to the technical break, however, where Montreal held a 16-13 lead.
A great up by Nikki Cornwall (Coquitlam, B.C.) helped Trinity Western even the match at 21-21, and the teams would trade the next two points. The Spartans saved a set point following an ace from Belanger, but could not stop an attack from Adryanna Dorismond-Rodrigue (Longueuil, Que.) that hit the floor in front of the Trinity Western block, putting Montreal up 2-0 in the match.
Carpentier and Devaney exchanged kills to put Trinity Western up 4-2, but two-straight aces by Belanger soon after pushed the Carabins ahead. Carpentier responded to her fellow First-Team all-Canadian by serving up consecutive aces, and the Spartans held a 16-12 lead at the technical. Trinity Western’s serve continued to stymie the Carabins, as an ace from Carpentier pushed the lead to six, and that was more than enough as the Spartans would commit just a single error while working at a .519 hitting efficiency to take the third set.
The Spartans continued to gain momentum in the fourth, moving ahead by as many as six points. Montreal would push back by taking four of five to come within two, but Trinity Western, who totalled 18 kills in the stanza, grabbed the next four to give the championship weekend its first five-setter. The leads changed three times in the early stages of the final set, where Trinity Western held a slim 8-7 lead at the changeover. A rejection by Cornwall and McKenzie pushed the lead to two, and after giving up a pair, O’Reilly tallied an ace that capped off a 3-0 steak to put the Spartans ahead 12-9.
In her final game, Carpentier solidified the Trinity Western comeback with cross-court strike on match-point, clinching the Spartans third bronze-medal in program history. “I was dreading today,” said Carpentier. “Got emotional yesterday not only because we lost but because today was going to be my final U SPORTS match as a Spartan. I’d be lying if I was saying I didn’t want to get the winning kill. It felt awesome.”
“Sophie’s the real deal,” said coach Ryan Hofer. “She’s been a pleasure to coach for five years. She brings a lot of leadership to our team. She’s a hard kid to replace. I’m real proud of her.”
Kills: Marie-Alex Belanger (23)
Points: Marie-Alex Belanger (27)
Blocks: Sarah Gosselin (2.5)
Digs: Mikhaella Blanchette (13)
Service aces: Marie-Alex Belanger, Katie Forcier (3)
Player of the match: Marie-Alex Belanger
Kills: Sophie Carpentier (19)
Points: Sophie Carpentier (27.5)
Blocks: Ashytn McKenzie (3)
Digs: Eli Wendel (10)5
Service aces: Sophie Carpentier (7)
Player of the match: Sophie Carpentier