The Manitoba Bison men’s volleyball team slipped up at the 2017 U Sports volleyball nationals in Edmonton. In their opening quarterfinal match against the hosts Alberta, the Bisons fell 3-1 in a tough contest. The Bisons bounced back in the consolation bracket, sweeping UNB then beating Laval 3-1 in the fifth place game.
A week removed from the Canada West Final Four in Winnipeg, the Bisons were roaring for revenge after losing to the Trinity Western Spartans in the Canada West final. Manitoba did not get that chance, as they failed at the first step against an Alberta team they beat twice in the regular season.
The first set was all Alberta, with the Golden Bears using the loud hometown crowd to their advantage. Manitoba found themselves down 16-9 at the technical timeout, and never gained too much after that losing 25-18.
Again in the second set, the Bisons were down for most of the set, but stormed back to win some crucial points late on. Adam DeJonckheere gave the Bisons their first lead of the match when he made it 23-22. DeJonckheere finished with eight kills on the night. The herd went to tie the match back up, winning the second set 25-23.
No momentum was carried over into the third set for the visiting Bisons, as Alberta jumped out to a 6-0 lead. It was 16-8 for the Golden Bears at the technical timeout, and the Bisons fell 25-21 after a late surge.
Alberta grabbed hold of the lead in the fourth set, leading 19-10 late in the set. The Bisons mounted a small comeback, but lost the set 25-16.
“Our serving pressure was weak, our spike servers didn’t do a very good job, missed a lot of the float serves,” Garth Pischke said after the game. “If you do that against a team like Alberta, with the middle attack that they have… they absolutely killed us in the middle.”
Having been relegated to the consolation bracket, the Bisons played the University Varsity Reds in the consolation semifinal. The Bisons bounced back and easily dispatched of the Reds 3-0.
This was the first time the Bisons and the Reds had ever played each other at a national championship. However, Manitoba played UNB back in an October preseason tournament, winning 3-0.
Devren Dear led Manitoba with 13 kills and seven digs, and DeJonckheere earned four service aces. The first set was a back and forth affair, but the Bisons pulled away late on, scoring five straight points to win 25-20.
Manitoba dominated the second set winning 25-15, with middle Ken Rooney getting the set-winning kill. A closer third set saw the Bisons manage to win 25-22 and move on to the consolation final.
Manitoba had never finished lower than fifth place at a national championship, and with their 3-1 win over the Laval Rouge et Or they continued that trend. This was the 12th time these two teams met at a national championship, with the last time coming in 2012 when Laval won 3-1 in the semifinals.
A tightly contested match for the two unfamiliar foes, the Bisons took the first set 25-22 after an Evan Jackson kill. One of the few players who will not be graduating this year, Jackson finished the day with 10 kills.
Laval won a lengthy second set 28-26 after a pair of Vincente P. Villalobos kills; he finished with a court-best 30 kills. Manitoba won the third set to take a 2-1 match lead, and won the fourth set 25-22 after Rooney smacked home his final U Sports kill to win the match 3-1.
“We made the most of it. You never want to lose the last game of the season,” Rooney told Bison Sports after the match. “We went out and had some fun and this was the last time playing together and it was nice getting a win.”
Manitoba finishes in fifth place despite being the number two seed heading into this weekend’s tournament. The Bisons have never finished lower than fifth place in 27 prior appearances at nationals.