Eric Loeppky was the most recent TWU grad among the five Spartans playing in the Volleyball National League in Italy this week. (Spartans/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Eric Loeppky was the most recent TWU grad among the five Spartans playing in the Volleyball National League in Italy this week. (Spartans/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Seven Spartans alum play volleyball in Italy this week

5 men, 2 women who graduated from Langley’s Trinity Western University continue the game they love

Trinity Western University will have five Spartans alumni representing Canada at the Volleyball Nations League this week in Italy.

The Spartans men’s quintet includes Dan Jansen Van Doorn (Class of 2013 from Langley), Eric Loeppky (’20 of Steinbach, Man.), Steve Marshall (’13 of Abbotsford), Ryan Sclater (’17, Port Coquitlam) and Lucas Van Berkel (’14, Edmonton).

Loeppky, who played his first year of professional volleyball this past season in Italy, joins a TWU foursome that helped Canada qualify for Tokyo Olympics at the NORCECA Men’s Tokyo Qualification Tournament in 2020.

Both the men’s and women’s VNL matches are being streamed live by CBC Sports (free of charge in Canada only).

The 2021 VNL started Tuesday for the women and Friday for the men, with the preliminary round completed on June 20 for the women and June 23 for the men. The 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Carrying on from the successful 2018 and 2019 competitions, 2021 Volleyball Nations League (VNL) continues in the same format of 12 core teams and four challenger teams per gender with each team playing against every other – though in view of the ongoing pandemic all matches of both genders will be played in the Italian city of Rimini.

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Including the five Spartan alums on the men’s side, Canada’s women’s team also features two TWU graduates, with Hilary Howe (’21, Calgary) and Brie King (’19, Langley) also set to represent the Maple Leaf in Rimini.

RELATED: Langley-based Spartans volleyball team sweeps series against Winnipeg

The men’s core teams are Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, Serbia and USA. They are complemented by the challenger teams from Australia, Bulgaria and Canada, plus newcomers Slovenia, who won the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup and are replacing Portugal who were relegated that same year, and the Netherlands, who are replacing China.

The men’s team is qualified for Tokyo 2020, based on its early 2020 win of the NORCECA zone tournament. The 2020-21 Olympic roster will be released at a later date.

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