Trinity Western head coach Ben Josephson is still taking some grief from his players for how he thought this season would play out.
“The guys are still joking about it,” chuckled the men’s volleyball coach.
“‘Coach, you said this was a building year.’”
“We definitely swung above the goals we had set out to accomplish,” Josephson said.
“I don’t think the guys full bought in that it was a building year. They said ‘forget that, we are just going to win.’”
The No. 2 Spartans defeated the host — and top-ranked — McMaster Marauders 3-1 (19-25,25-20,26-24,25-16) on Saturday night in Hamilton, Ont.
It was in the same venue as the Spartans first CIS men’s volleyball national title 10 years ago and it is their third national title in the past six years.
“The crowd and the home atmosphere definitely took us off our game in the first set and it made it an uphill climb after that,” Josephson said.
“Stealing that third set was insane. Then we started the fourth set hot and the rest is history.”
What makes this run even more remarkable was that the Spartans were sitting at 9-9 heading into the bye week in their schedule. They closed the regular season with five wins in six games and then after losing their playoff opener, strung together seven straight victories to capture the CIS banner.
“We were doing all the things we needed to be successful, but we didn’t know when the success would come, this year, next year, who knows,” Josephson said.
“We just weren’t getting any wins in the middle of the season, or the wins we thought we should get. We just kept telling the guys the wheels were spinning, it was just a matter of time until we started getting some momentum.”
“This is a culmination of a lot of hard work and trust in each other and in our teammates and in our system,” said TWU’s Ryan Sclater, who led the team with 20 kills in the gold-medal match.
“There were a lot of weeks when it felt like it just wasn’t quite working like it was supposed to work.”
But the team stuck with it, started winning, and along the way, found some resiliency and toughness.
A perfect example of that resiliency and toughness was the play of Leigh Goossen.
The middle blocker was sick and vomiting over the tournament’s final two days and hadn’t eaten in the 40 hours before the gold-medal game. All he was able to keep down was some chicken broth and fluid nutrition concoctions, Josephson said.
But on the floor, he was out there, giving all he could.
“That’s unbelievable toughness and commitment to our team and commitment to each other,” Sclater said in describing what his teammate endured. “I know that every single one of us was trying to give Leigh everything we had and he gave us everything he had.”
Following the championship final, Goossen was taken to the hospital to get an IV.
“Whatever he had to give, he was willing,” Josephson said, adding this was a story of sacrifice and focus.
The Spartans did not have a single player receive all-Canadian honours.
For Blake Scheerhoorn, the victory was extra special as it came in his home province.
“There were times during the season when I was praying that I’d get the chance to just play one game in front of my friends and family and then we went on this Cinderella run,” he said.
“I have played my whole career against these (McMaster) guys in Ontario and these are all guys I have constantly lost to in my career in Ontario.”
He finished the tournament with 61 kills over three matches and was named tournament MVP. Sclater had 58 kills over the weekend and was selected a tournament all-star.
In the team’s other matches, they beat Ryerson 3-1 and Alberta 3-2.
Mark Janzen TWU Athletics
Trinity Western Spartans Blake Scheerhoorn receives a hug after helping his team win the CIS men’s national volleyball championship over the McMaster Marauders in Hamilton, Ont. WIth the championships in his home province, Scheerhoorn had plenty of family in attendance cheering him and his teammates on against the host schol in the final.