For the first time since 2014, this past weekend the University of Manitoba women’s
volleyball team competed in the Canada West (CanWest) conference semi-finals, facing off
against the Mount Royal University Cougars (MRU) in a best-of-three series. A trip to the U-
Sports nationals in Vancouver, B.C. was on the line for the victor.
To reach the semis, the sixth place herd upset the third seed University of British
Columbia Thunderbirds (UBC) in the quarterfinals.
Bison libero Julia Arnold noted that, in the matchup against UBC, “we thought we had a pretty
good shot going in.”
The Bisons and the Thunderbirds never played against each other in the regular season,
meaning that the herd had the advantage of being a novel opponent.
Jumping ahead to the first semi-final game against MRU on Friday, March 3, the herd
firmly believed they could beat the Cougars.
Arnold explained, “as the season has gone on, we’ve gotten way better and we’ve kind of
found our feet and we’re kind of rolling now.”
She noted that in order to turn the team’s confidence into tangible victories, the team
needed to acknowledge that “[MRU are] a really physically team, so serving and passing is
always really important, but against this team we’re going to need to get them out of system
The Bisons are also considerably younger than the Cougars, many of whose players are
either in their fourth or fifth year of eligibility.
When asked if youth would factor in, Arnold said, “we’re learning and getting better all the
“Even though we are a young team, we’ve been playing together for a few years now, and
I think our ability to work together and learn together has been really beneficial for us,” she
On the road, the Bisons fought valiantly in their first game against the second place
Cougars, managing to snatch the game’s second set. However, the women’s team ultimately
went on to lose the match 3-1, failing to score over 20 points in all three of the sets that they
The herd was led by rookie superstar Raya Surinx, who racked up 20 kills in the match.
Incidentally, Surinx was also recently named to the CanWest second all-star team and to the
CanWest all-rookie team.
Eve Catojo recorded a team high four blocks and added a service ace, Katreena Bentley
dished out a game high 47 assists and Arnold countered Cougar attacks all game, finishing
the match with 11 digs.
Heading into the rematch on Saturday, March 4, needing a win to keep the series going,
the herd was also looking to keep their dream of reaching the CanWest championship game
and of punching their ticket to the U-Sports nationals alive as well.
A loss would mean the herd would play in the third place match against the University of
Winnipeg Wesmen (U of W).
Overall, it was a very tight match, with an aggregate point differential of just 75-64 for the
Cougars. However, MRU did win the match in three straight sets, making it appear as if the
Bisons didn’t show up.
But the herd certainly did. Surinx once again led the squad in kills with 15, adding three
aces to boot. Ella Gray added 11 more kills and a team high 11 digs. Bentley put up 36
assists and Arnold dug 10 balls, giving her the most digs of the series with 21.
Arnold has been excellent for the herd all season long, amassing the second best digs per
set output in CanWest.
When asked what the key to her game is, Arnold explained that it’s “just the will to keep
the ball off the floor as long as possible,” she said.
“I think coming into practice everyday with that mindset, and just focusing on getting just a
little bit better every day […] is really important.”
It’s also crucial to understand that, as libero, “you’ve been chosen to be the defensive
specialist,” Arnold added.
The herd will need her outstanding play moving forward as they’re set to play rival U of W
on Friday, March 10, at the Duckworth Centre in a winner-take-all CanWest bronze medal
match, with a trip to the U-Sport nationals on the line.
The team is a tight knit group and will rely on that in the bronze medal match.
“The biggest thing about this group is that we’ve established a really, really good team
culture and we’re all really good friends — genuinely — and I think that is a big aspect in
what goes into our success this year,” Arnold said.
Students should make the short, cross-city trip and flood the Duckworth Centre on Friday,
March 10 at 7 p.m. to support the herd as it attempts to make nationals.