Women’s volleyball team finishes fourth at nationals

CanWest bronze, fourth in U-Sports, a great season for young Bisons squad

Over this past weekend, the U of M women’s volleyball team participated in the U-Sports
volleyball championship in Vancouver, B.C.

To get to nationals, the herd beat its local rival University of Winnipeg Wesmen in a tightly
contested bronze-medal game to secure the third and final Canada West conference
(CanWest) spot at nationals.

Typically, CanWest sends four teams, meaning the Wesmen would have also made
nationals. However, because the University of British Columbia (UBC) hosted nationals, the
Thunderbird’s women’s team received a complimentary spot.

The herd’s first game at nationals was a quarterfinal matchup against the Mount Royal
University Cougars (MRU) on Friday, March 17.

The last time the Bisons played the Cougars was in the CanWest championship semi-
finals — sets that the Cougars won handily.

Therefore, the herd was looking for redemption.

Out of the gate, Manitoba lost an extremely close first set 26-24 but rallied in the second
set to take it 25-20.

The third set went to the Cougars. However, as the team has shown all year, when its
back is against the wall, it comes through.

The relentless Bisons thundered back in the fourth set, taking it 25-22 to force a decisive
fifth set.

In the fifth, the herd showed a clinical and clutch resolution, taking the set 15-10 and
pulling off a major upset over the three-seed Cougars.

A big factor in the win was Manitoba’s serving prowess, as the team aced the Cougars 14
times — eight of which came from national rookie of the year Raya Surinx, who added a
team-high 21 kills as well.

Ella Gray, who grew up in Surrey, B.C., also spurred on the herd’s offence, finishing with
14 kills and a team-high .382 kill percentage.

With the upset victory over MRU, the Bisons secured a semi-final match on Saturday,
March 18, against the host UBC Thunderbirds, who upset the second seed Brock University
Badgers in the quarterfinals. It would be a rematch of the CanWest quarterfinal series
between these two schools, in which the herd swept the Thunderbirds on their home floor.

The semi-final match started excellently for the herd, as it took the first set 25-20. The
team looked spry and played loose and confidently.

However, UBC turned things arounds quickly, taking the next two sets 25-20 and 25-16 in
convincing fashion, which seemed to rattle the young Bisons team.

In the fourth, the herd, who looked elated in the first set, now looked completely deflated.
And UBC, energized by a home gym full of their fans, used the swing in momentum to close
out the game, winning the fifth set 25-14.

Manitoba’s best player against the Thunderbirds was libero Julia Arnold, who got a game
high 22 digs.

The Thunderbirds went on to win nationals on their home floor.

Nevertheless, despite the loss, the Bisons still had something to play for on Sunday,
March 19, against the Dalhousie University Tigers — a U-Sports national bronze medal.
Looking to add a national bronze medal to their CanWest bronze, the herd thundered out
to a one set lead, taking the first set 25-16.

The Tigers slashed back in the second set, however, taking it 25-21. But the Bisons were
undeterred, romping the Tigers in the third set 25-11, needing only one more set to win the

Yet, once again, the Tigers fought back, winning the fourth set 25-21 to force a fifth and
final set.

In the fifth, the Bisons were up 14-12, needing just one more point to win the medal.
However, it wasn’t to be, as the Tigers clawed their way back into the set and ultimately won
it 18-16 on a block.

Overall, it was still a very successful year for this young Bisons team, and the
disappointing loss to end the season shouldn’t overshadow all the magnificent things
accomplished and the experience the team gained this year as it competed in numerous
championship level games. All eyes will be on this promising team next season.