Trojans topple Kings in thrilling five-set affair

CALGARY, (Feb. 2, 2019) — SAIT's Campus Centre Gymnasium was rocking Saturday night.


The SAIT Trojans men's volleyball team sent their fans home happy, if not exhausted, after winning a thrilling five-set Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) affair of over the visiting Red Deer College Kings 3-2 (25-20, 23-25, 22-25, 25-18, 19-17).


"The energy definitely carried through the whole match. Sometimes, I am a little worrisome when we start off a match with that high of energy," said Trojans head coach, Sean McKay. "But, the guys were able to keep it the whole time, which was awesome."


McKay had reason to be concerned. In last weekend's sweep at the hands of Lethbridge College, SAIT (13-7) took the first set in each of those matches before losing the next three.


"I'd be lying if I said that didn't pop into my head," admitted McKay. "But tonight, I think the guys were a lot more on their toes, they weren't complacent after a good first set – they were hungry for more."


While McKay might have been thinking about last weekend, the players had Friday night's swift 3-0 loss to the Kings (16-6) on their minds. Rebounding with a win as emotional as Saturday's victory was put well-earned smiles on their faces.


"(Friday) was not who we are as a team, and we knew that," said Trojans setter Nathan Goss (5th year, Cochrane, Alta., Business Administration).  "We know we can compete with any team in this league . . . We came into video and serve/pass today really hungry – you could see it in our eyes. We wanted it."


After winning Set 1, the Trojans dropped the next two sets thanks to a host of service errors.


Down 2-1 in the match, SAIT re-focused and dominated Set 4.


A big part of the success late in the match was the play of middles Chris Kayser (3rd year, Calgary, Bachelor of Business Administration) and Brennen Willis (3rd year, Cochrane, Alta., Welding Engineering Technology).


The pair recorded block after block to keep the Kings' offense in check, while providing a boost to their team's energy.


"Friday night, they were both fairly dormant, not only on offense but not closing blocks. Tonight, they switched it up 100 per cent," McKay said. "The block tonight was so much better, and in the fourth and fifth sets, Kayser was unbelievable."


In the final set, SAIT went up 5-1 when Tyler Latu'ila (4th year, Auckland, New Zealand, Bachelor of Business Administration) recorded a service ace. A kill by Latu'ila put the Trojans up 8-4 to instigate the switch.


A service error, double touch and hitting error by SAIT allowed Red Deer to close the gap to 10-8 before Latu'ila again came up with the timely kill to get the Trojans pointed in the right direction again.


SAIT used that momentum to go up 14-10 with game point in sight before the Kings took advantage of some errors and miscommunication to tie it up at 14-14 to quiet the crowd.


The teams traded points back and forth before Latu'ila recorded yet another kill to put his team up 18-17. Teammate Nicolas Berscht (1st year, Cochrane, Alta., Bachelor of Business Administration) recorded an ace that Red Deer passed into the roof to close out the match.


"We came out strong, put the ball on the guys we wanted to put it on and defended well – kudos to Chris for blocking up a storm," Goss said about the final set. "We won the race to eight, switched sides. Good on Red Deer for playing so well tonight, but we just kept marching. In the past, we've had issues letting errors affect the way we move on, but today it wasn't like that."


The Trojans will face another tough test next weekend, when they travel to Caronport, Sask., to take on the host Briercrest College Clippers in a pair of always-difficult road games – Friday night and Saturday afternoon.