It was a solid weekend of volleyball for the #4 ranked Bisons men’s volleyball team, as they hosted the 18-0 Alberta Golden Bears—ranked first in the nation—for a pair of matches. With only four regular season matches remaining in an extremely competitive Canada West conference, Manitoba needed to pick up a win to keep pace with the other top teams in the conference.
Heading into this weekend’s action, Bisons head coach Garth Pischke believed his team was playing some of their best volleyball all year, confident they could do what no other team could accomplish this year: beat Alberta.
In the opening set of the two-match weekend, Manitoba jumped out front early and won the first set 25-12. It was only the ninth set that Alberta had lost and the third time they had failed to win the first set in a match all season.
Unfortunately, Alberta showed why they’re the top team in the nation, as they topped the Bisons in three straight sets to win the match 3-1 (12-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-17).
“I think we let up on our serving in the last three sets, and that gave [Alberta] the opportunity to run all their hitters. They couldn’t run their middle in the first set – we blocked like crazy,” coach Pischke explained.
“They had way more varied offence in the last three sets. A couple close ones in the second and third, but we didn’t come up with the big plays. Then they just rolled in the fourth.”
The two teams met again the following night at the Investors Group Athletic Centre for the rematch. It was also a night for celebrating five Bisons men’s players who would be playing their final regular season home game, wearing the Brown and Gold.
One thing that coach Pischke mentioned after the end of the first game was the need to keep the emotional level a little higher in the rematch. With Derek Nieroda, Joseph Brooks, Carson Kauenhowen, and co-captains Dane Pischke and Chris Voth recognized before for the match as a part of the graduating class of Bisons sports athletes, emotions were bound to be sky high.
As if following a Hollywood script, the fifth-year leaders on the team came through in the clutch as Manitoba served Alberta their first loss of the season 3-1 (25-15, 25-22, 26-28, 25-17).
Like the night before, the Bisons took the first set handily, but this night they would not allow Alberta to respond in the second. The third set saw the score tied 11 times, as Alberta attempted to scrap their way back from the verge of defeat with a 28-26 set victory. But the Bisons appeared destined to win the game, as they capped off the match and the weekend with a fourth set that clinched victory.
Each of the big veterans finished the game with impressive stat lines. Dane Pischke had the second highest total kills of the night (15) and pitched in on defense with six digs. Nieroda had a game-high 13 digs, Brooks was in on a game-high eight blocks (one solo, seven assists), and Voth pitched in with 12 kills and three digs of his own.
The Bisons finish the season with two road matches against the Saskatchewan Huskies, while Alberta finishes their season at home against Trinity Western. Currently sitting in fourth place, the Bisons can leapfrog the Huskies into third with a series sweep.