Bringing it home

The U of M Bisons and the Winnipeg Wesmen had some unfinished business to settle as they completed the volleyball portion of the 2011-12 Duckworth Challenge.  The Bisons ended up being declared the winners, despite splitting the series 2-2 with the Wesmen.

The 21st edition of the Duckworth Challenge officially tipped off in December, when the Bison and Wesmen basketball teams split their games. A dominating 99-80 victory for the Bison men meant that despite a 56-42 loss in the women’s game Manitoba had the slight edge — according to tiebreaker rules introduced in 2009.  The two schools concluded the challenge on Feb. 1 at the Duckworth Centre on the  volleyball courts of the University of Winnipeg campus.

The women’s teams kicked off the night, as the fifth-ranked Wesmen hosted the sixth-ranked Bison team, who are still looking to secure their Canada West playoff spot.

After a frustrating first set, which the Wesmen won 25-11, the Bisons looked to even the match as they jumped out to an early 16-11 lead. Unfortunately, the Wesmen rallied and scored seven straight points as they won the second set 25-22. In the third, the Bisons put up a valiant effort but were simply outplayed by a hard working Wesman team that would not be denied on the night. The final score read 3-0 (25-11, 25-22, 25-18) for the hosts.

Kristi Hunter led the Bisons with 11 kills, and was named the Bison player of the game.

With the loss, all the pressure was on the Bison men’s team to split the series and clinch the challenge. The Bison men’s were the clear favourite to win the match, ranked second in the nation with a 14-2 record after splitting an exciting weekend series with Trinity Western. However, when pride is on the line in a storied cross-town rivalry, anything can happen.

Neither team was able to take control of the first set, as the teams played to a 15-15 before the Bisons managed to put together a five point run that provided them an opportunity to secure the first set. The Wesmen didn’t fade away, as they pushed back to 23-20 before the Bisons were able to put it away via a Ryan Munt service ace.

The second set started out similar to the first. The teams played to a 5-5 score before the Bisons heated up — at one point leading by 10 points — and won the second set 25-18.

The third set was by far the most exciting of the match, as the Wesmen did all that they could to push for a fourth. Neither team could take a commanding lead, as they exchanged points to the bitter end. Ultimately, it was the Bison who were able to capitalize as they capped off the match — and the Duckworth Challenge — with a 25-23 third set victory.

Bison Libero Derek Nieroda was named one of the players of the game. Nieroda led all players with 19 digs on the night.

This was the third consecutive year the U of M has won the Duckworth Challenge, improving their record in the challenge to 11-5-5.