Contrasts at the net

Bison volleyball action at the Investors Group Athletic Centre was hopping this past weekend as the men’s and women’s home teams both hosted the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in back-to-back conference matches.

First up on Friday night was the women’s match. The hosting Bisons came into the weekend ranked number one in CIS women’s volleyball, while the visiting Thunderbirds placed sixth overall in the top 10. UBC, however, shocked their hosts in the Friday game, handily winning the match in three straight sets, with scores of 25-16, 25-20 and 25-20.

Women’s volleyball head coach Ken Bentley was disappointed in his squad post-game.

“It was a very disappointing match in every area of the game,” Bentley exclaimed. “Every area was poor, and it reflected in how we played.”

Bisons team captain Ashley Voth concurred, “We just didn’t play our game and they ran our middle. It just fell apart; we needed to pass better.”

The following day Manitoba came out with a harder fought effort but unfortunately, the adjustments made to their game weren’t enough, as the Thunderbirds swept the weekend series, winning 3-1 the following night. The scores in those sets were 25-20 and 25-20 UBC, 25-21 Manitoba, then 25-9 UBC.

The Bison men’s volleyball team came into their weekend series ranked seventh in CIS men’s volleyball, hosting the unranked UBC Thunderbirds. The action in this match-up was much closer than it was for their female counterparts, as Manitoba came away winning their Friday match in four closely-fought sets. The first set saw the visiting Thunderbirds upend the hosts 25-16.

Said first-year Bison Carson Kauenhowen, “I wasn’t sure what to expect, just because it’s my first year in the CIS. I was expecting a battle.”

“We started out pretty slow. After watching their tape, we thought we’d be playing a pretty weak team,” admitted Bison Men’s team captain Chris Voth. “We didn’t really come out expecting them to be as good as they are.”

After dropping the first set, the Bisons fought back to take the next three by scores of 25-22, 25-20 and 25-23, respectively.

“I haven’t been in a hard-fought match like that in a long time!” exclaimed men’s volleyball head coach Garth Pischke after Friday’s victory. “I thought it was a real battle and both teams were really going at each other on the court. I don’t think there was one player on the floor on both teams that gave up out there. It was really do-or-die, and it went down to the last point.”

“They’re a great team, obviously,” Voth added about the visitors. “We’re very pleased with how we came out tonight.”

Coach Pischke agreed, “If one team comes out with that intensity and the other doesn’t, they’re going to get killed! So I hope we will be, if we’re not let down after winning, sometimes that happens. I hope we realize we came out by the skin of our teeth and [the Bisons] will be even hungrier tomorrow!”

Indeed, both teams came out with that intensity on Saturday night, as it came down to the wire with all five sets needed to determine a winner. UBC took the first set 25-23, then the Bisons took the second and third sets 25-19 and 25-21, respectively. After UBC took the fourth by a margin of two points, the Bisons clinched the victory, taking the fifth and final set 15-10.

The next Bisons volleyball action will come on the road against the Brandon Bobcats next weekend. Manitoba will round out their pre-holiday action against the University of Winnipeg Wesmen in the annual Duckworth challenge Dec. 3 at the Investors Group Athletic Centre. Women’s action starts at 6 p.m. and the men’s action follows at 8 p.m..