This weekend, the third-ranked University of Manitoba Bisons men’s volleyball team hosted the 10th-ranked Mount Royal Cougars in Canada West quarterfinal action. In the best–of–three series, the Bisons swept the Cougars 2-0. Manitoba won 3-1 (23-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-18) in game one and took game two 3-0 (26-24, 25-20, 25-20.
Game one started out shaky for the Bisons, as the Cougars took the home team by surprise in the first set to win 25-23. They were able to take advantage of some Bison errors and expose the holes in Manitoba’s defense. The herd had four attack errors in the first set compared to the Cougars’ three.
The second set was a back-and-forth affair, as a combination of free balls and service errors from the Cougars allowed Manitoba to keep it close. The Bisons managed to grab a 25-23 set victory.
With the set score knotted at one apiece, the Cougars’ errors continued to cost them, as they made 10 attack errors in the third set alone. Bisons head coach Garth Pischke also decided to insert third-year player Scott Vercaigne into the contest, to impressive effect.
“Vercaigne did a good job coming in,” Pischke said post-game. “He had a huge impact, he really is capable of being that impact player.”
The Bisons turned the corner in the decisive fourth set, thanks to some great blocking from Devren Dear and Josh Crellin. Crellin finished the game with a team-high five blocks, while Dear chipped in with four of his own. Adam DeJonckheere had a great game on the left side, finishing with 16 kills.
Pischke talked post-game about what changed in their game to help them win.
“I thought we settled down passing-wise,” he said. “Our blocking took over, we adjusted to their attack.”
With a 1-0 series lead in the the best-of-three, the Bisons were looking to close out the Cougars with a sweep. Vercaigne, who had a marvellous performance on Thursday, found himself a spot in the starting lineup and finished with six kills.
Manitoba was down as much as 19-14 in the first set, but Dear was back at it again with his punishing kills, ripping holes through the Mount Royal defence. He collected a team-best 11 on the night as the home side managed a 26-24 opening set victory.
A back-and-forth second set saw the home side pull ahead and grab a 25-20 win. Manitoba was able to take advantage of a lot of free balls the Cougars were giving them, and Kenny Rooney finished off the set with a nice kill after some miscommunication by Mount Royal defence.
After gaining an 18-13 lead in the third set, the Bisons never let the Cougars come close and won 25-20. They will now head off to Edmonton for the Canada West final four, where they will be aiming to win a seat at the national championships in Hamilton.
Pischke talked post-game about the Bisons’ performance.
“I liked our attitude, I like our never-say-die mentality,” he said. “We were down in a couple of those sets and we were able to come back.”