The Capilano Blues and Vancouver Island University Mariners played one of the longest sets in recorded volleyball history on Friday, with the Blues men finally coming out on top 44-42.
The two top-ranked teams in the PacWest league were obviously evenly matched – VIU is ranked fifth in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association while Capilano is sixth – and it showed in the match they played on Friday at VIU.
The Mariners took the opening set 26-24, setting the stage for the marathon battle of set No. 2 that saw frantic rallies as each team staved off set points over and over again. The Blues finally won the set on a kill by second-year power hitter Justin Yee, winning the 86th point of the set. PacWest and CCAA officials confirmed that it was the highest scoring set in the history of B.C. and Canadian college volleyball.
“We have never had a volleyball set decided by this score or anywhere near 40 points,” CCAA men’s volleyball convenor Ray Sarkis noted in an email to the North Shore News. As for the Blues, they were thrilled to come out on top in the epic battle.
“For me, what mattered at that time was to win the set,” said Blues head coach Emmanuel Denguessi in a Capilano release. “How far the set went was not our target. I am glad we are part of history, but I more proud to see the way my players have matured to the point that they can be resilient to win a long challenging set.”
The match went to a fifth set with the Blues claiming victory, putting an exclamation point on an incredible score line of 24-26, 44-42, 25-23, 21-25, 15-12.
Setter Simon Friesen led the way for the Blues with 58 total assists in the match to go along with a game-high 17 digs. Yee led the team in kills with 16 to go along with his 15 digs and four aces, while Kevin Chiu, Zarley Zalusky, and Mattias Wels-Lopez also reached double-digits in kills. Zalusky also recorded six blocks in the win.
One night later VIU handed the Blues their first loss of the season in slightly less dramatic fashion, the score settling at 3-1 for the Mariners.
“I think it was a game featuring the two best teams of the league so far,” said Denguessi. “VIU is a very hard team to play against, but I am proud of my players to have offered the quality of game they provided.”
Following the marathon set Capilano’s coaching staff and communications team did a bit more digging into the incredible 44-42 set, concluding that it was likely one of the highest scores ever in the history of the game.
“Assistant coach Alex Pappas also did some research, and based upon what he found it tied for the fifth-highest set score in volleyball history,” Capilano sports information director CJ Pentland stated in a note to the North Shore News.
A story on the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball website describes a Korean V-League match that included a 56-54 set. The same story also describes a 1999 World League preliminary match that included a 44-42 set win for Brazil’s national men’s team over Canada (the Canadians won the match in five sets).
A much-cited match from the 2011 FIVB Men’s World Cup between Italy and United States included a 41-39 set win for the Italians, who won the match 3-1. That is noted to be the highest ever set score in a World Cup Match. The deepest corners of the internet also describe a Czechoslovak League match from 1979 that included an 87-85 set.
The full truth is likely impossible to decipher. What we do know, however, is that the fans at VIU on Friday were treated to something they’ll likely never see again.