There will be no easing into the Canada West regular season for the Trinity Western Spartans women’s volleyball team.
“It starts out with a bang,” said head coach Ryan Hofer.
“UBC will be a good test.”
The Spartans, ranked second in the country, open the season with a home-and-home series against the UBC Thunderbirds. The T-Birds — who have won the last six CIS national championships — are ranked No. 1.
The teams play at the Langley Events Centre on Friday night (6 p.m) and then on the UBC campus on Saturday.
“There is a good mix on the team,” Hofer said.
“Lots of seniors and younger players. We just have to find the right balance.”
The team did lose four starters from last year’s squad which captured the bronze medal at nationals.
But that doesn’t mean expectations aren’t there for yet another chance at the national dance: the Spartans program has qualified for nationals three years in a row — also winning bronze in 2011 — as well as making six trips to nationals in the past eight seasons.
“We want to go deep into the playoff and the tournament,” Hofer said.
“If we can stay healthy and stay strong, we have some pretty talented athletes.”
While every season is different, Hofer said the team still needs to draw on the experience it gained.
“We got bronze last year, now it is what is it going to take to win a championship,” he said.
The question for the players and the coaching staff is to figure out just what else is needed to take that next step.
One thing not likely to change is that what the Spartans do on the court will filter through Canada West first team all-star Alicia Perrin. The team has experimented in the preseason by moving Perrin around the court, but no matter where she finds herself on the court, she is expected to be focal point both for the team’s attack and block.
Perrin, who typically plays in the middle, averaged 1.31 blocks per set, which was second in the conference, and had a .336 attacking percentage, which was third.
Royal Richardson, Sophie Carpentier and Carly Hamilton are expected to power the team’s strong left-side attack.
Stepping up into a starting role at setter will be Lauren Moncks.
Joining Moncks on the floor will be he twin sister Kristen, the reigning Canada West libero of the year.
The team had a solid preseason — they went 6-1— but did lose three players to concussions.
“(Concussions) are a little bit unpredictable, you never know what is going to happen,” Hofer said.
“We have been working through those and just starting to get healthy again.”