Members of the U of M Bisons men’s volleyball team joined This Week in Bison Sports Oct. 26 to set up the year to come.
Libero Kyle Martens and middles Dylan Sutherland and Brendan Warren sat down to talk about the young team and their expectations for the season.
Manitoba will have a young squad, with a number of second- and third-year players in the starting rotation. Dustin Spiring is the lone fifth-year player and will be leaned on as a major source of leadership.
But just because the Bisons are young does not mean they will not compete with the top teams in the Canada West conference.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys who want to go out there and prove themselves,” said Sutherland.
“They’re going to work really hard and give everything they’ve got.”
The players said they are confident they will fit well together, but it will take time to iron out the kinks.
“Since we’re a young team it takes a while to mesh together,” said Warren.
“As the season progresses it’ll just be getting better and better.”
The Bisons predicted the UBC Thunderbirds, the University of Alberta Golden Bears and Trinity Western University Spartans will be at the top of the standings as usual, but the players have their eyes on the Brandon University Bobcats as a potential dark horse team.
“In the past they’ve done well, but the last few years kind of gone a little bit unnoticed,” said Sutherland.
“They’re looking good this year, should be a contender.”
Manitoba, meanwhile was ranked 10th in the 2018 Canada West pre-season coaches’ poll. This makes the herd the underdog heading into many matches this season, but the players are not bothered.
Warren said it takes only a few bounces to put a team in a deficit and if you are expected to win, the pressure rises. Underdogs do not face that same pressure.
“When you don’t have pressure on you, you can just play free and play your game. It’s a lot better,” said Warren.
Martens provided the team’s upset win over UBC last season as an example of what can happen when an underdog plays free of the pressure of expectations.
“We just put our hearts on the court and we came up with the upset and beat them,” said Martens.
“It kind of just shows that when you’re the underdog there’s nothing to lose.”
While Manitoba is not considered a top-tier team this season, this has not stopped the players from thinking of a championship run.
“Seeing all the old banners in the gym, they still have space up there,” said Warren. “So I’m thinking we can fill some space sometime soon.”
Martens saw the team transition from the veterans that hosted a Canada West Final Four in 2017, and went to nationals that same year, to a team filled with a majority of younger players.
“That’s really exciting to kind of see the transition of a veteran team who had a lot of success to a younger team that is underdogs in most games,” said Martens.
An interesting off-season acquisition for the Bisons is Australian recruit Ben Carleton. He last played for the Australian national team, providing the Bisons with a strong volleyball background despite his freshman status.
“He’s got some serious potential,” Bisons head coach Garth Pischke told Bison Sports.
“He’s got some things to learn about the game, but he’s got the talent to be one of the best players in this league for sure.”
The Bisons will be on the road this weekend in Vancouver to take on the UBC Thunderbirds. Game one is Nov. 9 at 9:30 p.m. CST with game two the next night at 7:30 p.m. CST.
You can catch This Week in Bison Sports with Jason Pchajek every Friday at 11:00 on 101.5 UMFM.