The University of Manitoba men’s volleyball team is currently ranked sixth in the nation, and are considered a powerhouse not only in the Canada West, but also in all of Canada.
Last season, the Bisons crashed and burned out of the Canada West final four, failing to win a single set. They are hoping to get back to the final four this year and take it one step further by winning Canada West – and ultimately the U Sports championship.
“We’re capable of getting that far and further,” middle Ken Rooney said. “The ultimate goal is a national championship. This year I think we have seven fifth-year guys and a few more fourth-year guys. So this is it, this is as experienced as any team gets.”
Rooney has been a captain with the Bisons for four consecutive seasons, and is in his final year with the herd. Known as “Mr. Reliable,” Rooney is a stalwart for the Bisons in the middle of the court.
Kevin Falconer and Adam DeJonckheere were named assistant captains for the Bisons for the upcoming season. Falconer, like Rooney, has been a captain for four years, and is playing in his fifth and final year with the Bisons. The 22-year-old is a force for the Bisons on the court, always being vocal.
DeJonckheere, the soon to be 21-year-old hitter, is entering his fourth season and third as a captain. The six-foot-three native of Winnipeg was a part of the 2013-14 CIS all-rookie team.
“We’re in great shape with leadership, with Kenny being our captain, but we get leadership from a lot of other guys,” head coach Garth Pischke said. “We got some real veteran guys on this team so that helps a lot when it comes to playing.”
The Bisons are going to want to use that veteran presence to get over the hurdle of the Canada West final four and get to the big dance with some of the best volleyball teams in the nation.
“We have the skill to go all the way, it’s just a matter of putting it together on a consistent basis. I think we’ll get there,” Rooney said. “With that being said, though, we can’t look too far ahead. We’ve got to take it weekend by weekend, point by point, and just focus on what we’re doing. If we follow the process, I think we’ll get where we want to be.”
This Bisons team has been playing together for many years now, with many fourth and fifth year guys, so it is a tight-knit group.
“We’re a group of guys that have played together for a long time and gets together really well,” Rooney said. “I guess sometimes I think we can be a bit harder on each other, we’re such good friends.”
Last season, Manitoba’s offence was deadly, with Devren Dear being one of the main catalysts. He was third in the Canada West in kills per set with 4.47 and fifth in total kills with 349. The Bisons also had the second best hitting percentage in the Canada West with .316, and as a team averaged 13.35 kills per set, which was second overall in the conference.
This year it is not any different, and the Bisons will have one of the top offenses in the Canada West this season.
“Our offence is pretty unstoppable if we’re passing the ball well,” Rooney said. “What we do need to work on is our defensive side of the game.”
The Bisons seem to have worked on their defensive side pretty well so far, as they are third in the conference with 48 blocked attacks so far this season.
After a disappointing opening weekend split, the sixth-ranked Bisons team got back on track in their home opening series against Regina with a dominating sweep. Fans will have to wait a bit to see this potential championship-winning side to play again at home, when they play the number one ranked Alberta Golden Bears on Nov. 18-19.