Both the Bison men and women’s volleyball teams were in tough this weekend at home against UBC Thunderbird squads, ranked second and fourth place in the Canada West, respectively.
The Bison men’s team lost Friday night’s match against UBC 3-1 (25-16, 26-24, 26-28, 25-20), but came roaring back on Saturday night to earn the split decision 3-1 (16-25, 22-25, 25-23, 15-25). Saturday’s result was the first loss dealt to UBC in six games and demonstrated how good the Bisons can be.
“I’m excited when we beat a team I consider to be one of the top three teams in the country,” head coach Garth Pischke said.
“To control the match like that, it’s a good feeling to know we can do it. We just have to find a way to keep that passion and that support on the court every night.”
The Bisons came out with energy and precision Saturday night, completely dominating UBC in the first and fourth sets. Manitoba continues to get big offensive production from Devren Dear, Adam DeJonckheere, and Luke Herr. DeJonckheere led the Bisons this weekend with 36 kills and 14 digs, Dear had 27 kills plus 15 digs, and Herr picked up 87 assists plus 15 digs.
The Bisons also received solid contributions from Kenny Rooney and Kevin Falconer, who had 16 and 13 kills, respectively. Rooney also picked up 14 blocks.
The Bison women’s team faced the UBC Thunderbirds this weekend for the first time since beating them in Regina in the CIS gold medal game. The Bisons won Friday night’s matchup in a five-set thriller (12-25, 25-23, 25-22, 18-25, 17-19), but dropped Saturday night 3-1 (25-22, 19-25, 25-21, 25-22).
When asked about any lingering emotions from Nationals between the two teams, head coach Ken Bentley felt both teams were more focused on their current fight in the CIS standings than in the emotions of a rematch narrative.
“The weekend was so important for both of our teams. We had a chance to get back to .500 tonight. The split is a bit disappointing, but we’re in a really tough stretch right now.”
Despite the split, Bentley was happy with his team’s level of effort.
“I’m very pleased with the fight we had; we put ourselves in a position to win every set.”
Friday night was a rollercoaster ride of emotions for the crowd, as the Bisons started the weekend off by completely dominating UBC in the first set 25-12. The Thunderbirds crawled back into the game, narrowly winning the next two sets.
Neither the crowd nor the Bisons quit on the game, and the home team fought their way back with a dominating performance in the fourth and a blow-for-blow battle in the fifth.
Saturday night was a tougher matchup for the Bisons. The loss keeps the Bisons below .500, but Bentley doesn’t feel their record merits panic.
“We’ve had a chance to win every match except one. We are playing an incredibly difficult first half schedule, and so I am really pleased with the level of fight we have.”
Captains Rachel Cockrell and Brittany Habing continue to be bright spots for the team. Cockrell picked up 32 kills over the weekend and Habing added 64 assists. In the absence of departed veterans from last year’s National Championship team, Cockrell and Habing have led by example for younger players seeing action this year.
“First of all, their level of work is extraordinary,” Bentley said.
“They are so committed to this university and our program. I think the first-year kids really appreciate seeing that; I mean how could you not?”
The Bisons are in tough again next week as both the men and women’s teams take on strong University of Brandon squads on the road. and women’s volleyball teams split weekend series vs. UBC