On the merit of being a showdown between the top ranked men’s volleyball teams in the CIS, the matches between the undefeated Trinity Western Spartans and the U of M Bisons on Jan. 27 and 28 would have been instant classics.
But their Friday match up was more than just a potential preview of the Canada West Conference final. There was more on the line than a win in a tight race at the top of the Canada West standings. Sitting at 1199 career wins, long-serving Bison men’s volleyball head coach Garth Pischke was one victory away from reaching an unprecedented 1,200th win in his coaching career — a CIS record.
And so the stage was set. In front of an announced attendance of 600 at the Investors Group Athletic Centre, the Bison’s men outworked the Spartans in the first set, before simply putting on a clinic for the remainder of the match.
Capitalizing on 23 attack errors throughout the match, the Bisons were able to win handily in straight sets 3-0 (25-21, 25-19, 25-17). Dane Pischke (coach Pischke’s son) led the Bisons in kills, while Chris Voth and Evan Jackson each pitched in with seven of their own.
As solid as the Bisons were attacking, they were equally good on defence. Whenever the dangerous Spartan attack was at its finest, the Bisons were able to react, recover and return most of what was sent their way. Chris Komishon and Derek Nieroda finished tied with seven digs apiece, contributing to Manitoba’s 29 total digs.
After the game, coach Pischke was as humble about the record as he was about the victory over Trinity Western.
On reaching the 1,200 win milestone he remarked: “I used to tell people when I first started [coaching]: ‘if I do this more than 10 years, shoot me.’ [laughs] That went by, and another 10 went by and another 10 went by.
“I love it as much as the very first time I played. It’s great to do this with my son on the court”
According to coach Pischke, the team was “flawless” on defence, and would need a similar performance if they hoped to sweep the Spartans the following day when the two teams would do it all over again.
Unfortunately for Manitoba, Trinity Western would rebound the following day, and win a much tighter match 3-0 (26-28, 24-26, 22-25). It was a match that — if not for a few plays in each set — could have easily been won by the Bisons. To dominate against the top team in the nation one night, and then challenge them in three tight sets the following night is yet another indication of to how strong this Bison team is.
With the weekend split, the Bisons remain one win back from the Spartans at the top of the Canada West Standings. Four matches remain for both teams. The Bisons will have to take care of business against cross-town rival, the U Winnipeg Wesman, before closing out the season at home against Saskatchewan.