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'Today was our time'

By GARY AHUJA
March 7, 2011 · Updated 10:44 AM
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Trinity Western Spartans's Rudy Verhoeff was named tournament MVP as the Spartans men's volleyball team won the CIS national championship on their home court on Sunday night. Following the final point, the Events Centre crowd spilled out onto the floor to celebrate. / John Gordon/Langley Times

Standing on the sidelines with the silver medals draped around their necks while their opponents celebrated across the court was a feeling the Trinity Western Spartans never wanted to experience again.

The Spartans men's volleyball team finished runner-up to the Calgary Dinos at the 2010 Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championships.

And as the host team for the 2011 tournament at the Langley Events Centre, the Spartans had all year to plot their course.

Losing the final the year before stung and definitely left a bitter taste in their mouth.

"The boys hung a silver medal on the pole at every practice this year," said Dan Jansen Van Doorn. "And we hung one in the locker room and every day we looked at that and how bad it hurt and worked that much harder."

And the Spartans would not be denied.

Seeded fourth at the eight-team national championships, Trinity Western needed five sets to beat fifth-ranked Alberta in the quarter-finals and then another five sets against top-ranked Calgary in the semifinals, exacting a measure of revenge for the 2010 championship loss.

And the gold medal mission was capped off with a 3-0 straight sets victory over the No. 3 Brandon Bobcats on Sunday night.

Rudy Verhoeff, the tournament's most valuable player, said losing the gold the year before was just the extra motivation they needed.

"Before the match tonight, we looked at a picture of us sitting on the bench with the silver medals around our necks and we had a quote posted to it: 'Our time will come.' And today was our time," he said.

Verhoeff finished the tournament with 51 kills to lead the Spartans attack.

"We took one day off after last year's loss and then started thinking about this match," admitted coach Ben Josephson.

"Three hundred and sixty-four days of prep for this, and to have it turn out like this, I couldn't be happier for the guys."

The Spartans rolled through the first two sets, winning 25-12 and 25-22. Over the course of those two sets, they only trailed once each in both sets, and both times by just a single point.

They raced out to an 8-4 lead in the third set before Brandon got their game on track. The Bobcats were a point away from forcing a fourth set before the Spartans scored four of the next five points to win the Tantramar Trophy 27-25.

"The guys stayed in the moment, played each point as one point, good or bad, and that allowed them to stay focused on their systems and let the crowd fire them up," Josephson said. "And when the opportunity came for a big play, they made something happen."

Ben Ball, who quarterbacked the Spartans attack, finished with a game-high 28 assists, was named a tournament all-star.

"We put so many hours into this ... and especially with last year, losing in the finals," he said. "We have been focusing all year on these three games, this one weekend.

"And when it came time, we showed up."

A big key was neutralizing the Bobcats' big hitters.

"They have two of the best wing hitters in the country, so we knew if we could serve them off the net, we would be in a good spot because we have the best block in the country," Ball explained.

Brandon's Paul Sanderson and Kevin Miller each had 35 kills over the first two games, but were held to nine and 10, respectively, by Trinity Western.

The Spartans finished with 30 kills compared to 17 errors and a hitting percentage of .149.

Brandon had more attack errors (34) than they did successful kills (27) in the match.

By comparison, in their first two matches, Brandon had a combined 107 kills over seven sets.

The Spartans out-blocked Brandon 19-6.5, throwing the Bobcats attack off-kilter.

Jansen Van Doorn said the team could not have done any of this without help.

"Thanks to the coaches for pushing us every day and the bench guys for keeping us in check," he said. "And the Spartan faithful, the 2,200 screaming fans."

The local product — he attended Langley Christian — led the Spartans with 13.5 blocks over the three days. And he did so despite playing on troublesome knees which have bothered him the past couple of months.

After playing all five sets on Friday, he was limited to three of the five sets on Saturday, but was able to play all three on Sunday.

"You have to do what it takes," he shrugged. "You are pumped up on adrenaline and the fans and your teammates and the game.

"You don't even know (they hurt)."

He added there was no way he would have missed the championship final.

For more photos from the tournament, visit visit this site online