In the final set of home games before the Canada West playoffs, both the men’s and women’s volleyball teams hosted the visiting Calgary Dinos, each side jockeying for valuable playoff positions.
The Bison men’s team entered the weekend with an 11-3 conference record, sitting third overall in the Canada West standings. Calgary, on the other hand, came into Manitoba with a perfect 14-0 record, good enough for first overall in the Canada West conference.
In the first night of their back-to-back weekend games, Feb. 4, the Bisons battled hard with the Dinos in a back and forth fight that saw Calgary edge the home team for a 25-23 opening set. By the second set, Manitoba was able to get within two points of Calgary, 17-19, but the conference leading Dinos had built enough momentum to push forward taking a 2-0 lead, winning the set 25-20. Calgary used to third set to finish off the reeling Bisons by a score of 25-17, winning the match 3-0.
The following night, the two teams squared off once more, with the Dinos starting fast, taking the first set 25-14. The men’s team was not about to be blown out, however, even if they were facing the number one team in the conference. Manitoba fought tooth and nail for the final two sets, going point for point with Calgary, but ultimately fell in both sets by a score of 26-24, losing the second match 3-0.
“It was tough to watch the first set when we had no emotion,” said Bisons head coach Garth Pischke. “We fought and battled after that. It’s a war out there and you have to put that kind of emotion into it to win.”
The Bison women’s team came into the weekend with a 9-5 conference record, also sitting third overall in the Canada West standings. Not nearly as dominant as their male counterparts, however, the women’s volleyball team in Calgary sat a modest sixth overall in the conference before facing Manitoba, Feb. 4-5.
In the first night of action, the Bisons were able to jump ahead early and barely had to look back, taking the first and second sets by scores of 25-20 and 25-18, respectfully. The third set of the night saw Calgary battle back from an early deficit to lead by a score of 23-21, at which point Bison head coach Ken Bentley called the team’s last time out to rally the troops. The break for Manitoba proved beneficial as the home team wound up pulling ahead 25-23, avoiding a fourth set and winning the match 3-0.
“As any coach would say, I’m guardedly optimistic about tomorrow,” Bentley said at the conclusion of Friday’s game. “They’re an athletic team, so we have to come out and replicate the effort we had tonight.”
The following night’s game at the Investors Group Athletic Centre proved to be a world of difference for Bison fans, as Calgary looked sharp, taking the opening set 25-14. A closer second still saw the Dinos outpoint the Bisons to take the set 25-21. Looking to avoid a 3-0 match sweep, Manitoba started fast in the third, going ahead 8-3 at the first technical timeout and not once looking back, taking the third set 25-19.
An incredibly close fourth saw both teams chipping away for the lead before the Bisons finally pulled ahead to take the set 28-26. In the fifth and final set, the Dinos halted Manitoba’s comeback and put the finishing touches on a 3-2 match victory. Kate Wasyliw led all Bison players over the weekend with 19 total kills in Saturday’s game.
“We passed poorly, we hit poorly, everything was different,” Bisons coach Bentley said of the discrepancy between the two games. “That’s the bottom line. We gave Calgary chances and they took advantage of them.”
Both the Bison men’s and women’s volleyball teams head to B.C. this weekend to close out the last two games of the regular season schedule against Trinity Western University.