Wolf packs are usually less successful hunting Bison compared to other prey — but this weekend was a feast.
With a pair of losses to the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack over the weekend, the U of M Bisons men’s volleyball team suffered a major setback in its quest for a post-season berth.
The Bisons dropped game one of the weekend 3-1 to the Wolfpack Friday at Investors Group Athletic Centre.
Kevin Negus had eight kills for the Bisons, while Dustin Spiring pounded down seven kills and got down for seven digs.
Manitoba competed, but the Wolfpack offence was too much for the home team to handle. The visitors hit a total of 58 kills and the Bisons converted on just 30 kills themselves.
The teams exchanged points in the opening set, with the Wolfpack leading 24-22 late in the frame. However, Manitoba scored four consecutive points to win the set.
Dylan Sutherland served up two aces, while Negus and Spiring each had a kill during the 4-0 scoring run.
Tim Dobbert was strong in the second frame, slamming down eight balls for the Wolfpack. Neither team was able to put together any scoring runs, and Negus’s three kills kept Manitoba within striking distance.
The Thompson Rivers offence broke through late and an Anton Napolitano kill won the set 25-20.
The Bisons jumped out to an early 5-1 lead in the third set, thanks in large part to two Sutherland aces. The visitors responded with five unanswered points, which included two Dobbert kills, to take a 6-5 lead.
The two teams went back-and-forth throughout the remainder of the frame, but four more kills from Dobbert helped the visitors take a 2-1 set lead with a 25-21 win.
Ben Carleton smacked down four kills in the fourth set for Manitoba, three of which helped the Bisons to an early 7-2 lead. The home team led 11-6 before Thompson Rivers put together an 8-1 scoring run created by six Bisons errors.
The Wolfpack took the lead and never looked back, winning the set 25-23 to take the match.
Thompson Rivers completed its sweep of the Bisons Saturday with a 3-1 win.
Dobbert was unstoppable again, hitting 19 kills for the visiting Wolfpack. Negus led the Bisons with 13 kills and Sutherland had a game-high 10 digs.
“I’m really proud of the way we played here,” said Bisons head coach Garth Pischke. “A little disappointed in some of the bad breaks we got in this game and that could have made a difference.”
Dobbert was strong right out of the gates and knocked down seven kills for the visitors, while Spiring hit three for the herd in the first frame. The Bisons led 22-20 late in the set before the visitors closed out the frame with five straight points, including two Dobbert kills.
The Wolfpack had an early 5-0 run in the second set, with the help of two Sam Taylor Parks kills. Negus had three kills for Manitoba, but Thompson Rivers used its offence to propel the club to a 25-20 set win.
Manitoba staved off defeat in the third set with a 25-19 win. The visitors led 16-15 when the herd laced together a 6-0 scoring run that featured three Spiring kills.
The third set was the only time the Bisons could contain the high-powered Wolfpack offence and a Taylor Parks service error gave the herd the win.
The Wolfpack offence got back on track in the fourth set and rolled to a 25-18 set win and the match.
The Bisons now sit at 7-11 on the season, tied with UBC for the final playoff spot. With four games left, the herd must now play the 5-11 University of Winnipeg Wesmen and 12-4 Trinity Western University Spartans to try and make the dance.
“These two [games] hurt us, losing these,” said Pischke. “They’re must-wins for us for sure, for us to have any chance of making the playoffs.”
The Bisons will be back on the court next week to face the University of Winnipeg Wesmen. Game one is Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. CST and game two is the next day at 6:45 p.m. CST.