Bison volleyball teams serve up wins to start season

When you look at Manitoba’s volleyball teams, you’ll notice a big difference between the team rosters – specifically when you compare the athlete’s years of remaining eligibility.

The women’s team is brimming with young talent and looking to fill the void left from the departures of Kristi Hunter and Tricia Mayba, who accounted for nearly half of the team’s total kills in 2011-12. Made up of mostly first and second-year players with only one fifth-year veteran and two third-year players, success will be a testament to the Bison Junior Volleyball program that most of the players have come through. They enter the 2012-13 Canada West season ranked fifth in the nation.

Meanwhile, the men’s team has four fifth-year players leading the charge on a team that won bronze at last year’s CIS National Championship. The Bison men enter this season ranked third in the nation, behind two conference rivals: the defending CIS Champion Trinity Western Spartans and the Alberta Golden Bears.

Both teams start the 2012-13 season with the same goal: to win the CIS National Championship. To do so, they’ll have to keep up outstanding play in an incredibly competitive Canada West conference before booking their tickets to Sherbrooke, QC for the National Championship tournament in February.

But there was no time for daydreaming about championship banners on Oct. 25; both Bison teams were focused on opening the season with a win over their cross-town rivals, the U of Winnipeg Wesmen.

The women’s team got the night started by cruising past the Wesmen 3-0 (27-25, 25-19, 25-17). The Bisons struggled early in the first set, but finally found their stride. Down 23-14, they came all the way back to clinch the first set 27-25. From there, the women’s team managed to avoid the unforced errors that put them behind in the first set and remained in control for the rest of the match.

Christina Souza did a fine job setting up most of the Bison kills on the night, as Christina Mulder led all Bisons with 13 kills, three behind Winnipeg’s Ozana Nikolic who led all players in the category.

The men were just as impressive, as they got right down to work dismantling the Wesmen in straight sets 3-0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-15). By the end of the game, it was clear that Manitoba was the better team and that this group will be a force to contend with this season. Capitalizing on 24 unforced Winnipeg errors, Manitoba was able to win comfortably.

The team captains made their presence felt; Chris Voth had 11 kills and Dane Pischke had eight digs, good enough to lead those categories.

Both Bison teams will play their first home games of the season this weekend, as the Calgary Dinos come to town for a pair of games at the Investors Group Athletic Centre on Thursday and Friday.