It took nearly everything they had, but in the end the UBC Thunderbirds earned a hard fought victory over the Manitoba Bisons, winning the Canada West championship crown by a score of 3-2.
UBC opened Saturday night’s game strongly, taking the first and then the second sets, both by scores of 25-17, thanks in part to their relentless counterattack. Facing the pressure of an eminent three set sweep, Manitoba collected themselves and stormed their way back into the action, winning back-to-back sets to tie the game at two sets apiece. In the fifth, however, the Thunderbirds were able to halt the Bisons’ momentum just long enough to seal the game by winning the final set by a score of 15-8. With the win, UBC continued a perfect 22-0 record this season against Canada West conference teams.
Kate Wasyliw led Manitoba with a total 12 kills on the night while Kristi Hunter (10), Ashley Voth (12), Nicole Hall (20) and Wasyliw (10) all scored in the double digits in the digs category. On the opposite side of the court, UBC’s Liz Cordonier led all players with a total of 16 kills and came third on her team with 10 digs. Earlier in the week Cordonier had been named the 2009/10 Canada West conference MVP. At the same award ceremony Manitoba’s Ashley Voth and Samantha Loewen were both named to the first and second Canada West All-star teams respectively.
Although the Bisons finished the Canada West Final Four tournament on a sour note, they still managed to capture the silver medal and in doing so earned a spot in the CIS national championship games, which take place at the University of Alberta, March 5-7. The three Canada West teams making the trip to the CIS nationals are UBC, Manitoba and the Trinity Western Spartans, who bounced back after a loss on Friday to earn the third and final qualifying spot.
The loss may have motivated TWU to come back with a stronger effort on Saturday but it was also the game that propelled Manitoba into the top two in Final Four tournament standings. In their first game of the tournament the Bisons defeated the Spartans by a score of 3-2.
Much like Saturday’s Gold medal game, the Manitoba/TWU tilt was an intense battle that took both teams to a fifth and final frame. After the Spartans won a close opening set 26-24, the Bisons were able to keep themselves ahead of TWU for nearly three straight, pulling ahead 2-1 in the process. The theme of the night, however, seemed to be comebacks as Manitoba consistently found themselves defending late momentum shifts that would see TWU pull even late in the set.
Manitoba was able to hold off the Spartans nearly every time, save for the fourth set, which saw TWU tie the game at two sets each. In the fifth set, though, the Bisons took the lead early and didn’t look back until they claimed the match point on a TWU error. The Bisons’ Tricia Mayba had 17 kills on the night, while Hunter and Voth also tallied high with 16 and 15 of their own.
Following Saturday’s loss to UBC, the Bisons will now wait to travel to Alberta where they will compete with the top teams from the Canada West and Canada East CIS standings in the 2010 Women’s Volleyball National Championship. If the Bisons hope to remain competitive in the running for the national championship they will have to compose themselves and put Saturday’s game behind them fairly quickly, as Manitoba will likely have to go through UBC as well as the top seeded University of Toronto in order to get there.
History may just be on Manitoba’s side, however, as the Bisons hold a 38-15 record all-time in CIS Championship play. Since 1981 the Bisons have won 71 per cent of their championship games and currently still sit within the top four women’s volleyball teams in the country.