The University of Manitoba Bisons volleyball teams were in Vancouver this past weekend, facing off against the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds.
With both teams facing first-place UBC, the Bisons needed to give a complete, relentless effort.
As UBC surely knew, the herd looked to usurp the Thunderbirds’ top position in the CanWest conference going into the weekend series. Sitting one spot behind the T-birds in the standings, the Bisons braced and fortified themselves for a couple of challenging matches.
In the first match, the herd fought valiantly and played the T-birds close in every set.
However, the Bisons did eventually fall in straight sets, losing the first set 25-23, the second 25-22 and the third 25-22, again.
Notable performers from the first match were Eve Catojo, who contributed seven kills on an efficient .462 hitting percentage, and Ella Gray, who recorded eight kills while hitting .368.
Likewise, the most prolific offensive weapon in CanWest, Raya Surinx, hammered home 18 kills and managed to chip in defensively with 11 digs.
Showing great resilience by bouncing back from the previous night’s loss, the Bisons put everything on the line in the second match, turning in one of their most inspired efforts of the season thus far.
In what was a back-and-forth affair, the herd managed to emerge victorious in the second game and split the series, winning 3-2.
Manitoba was aided by Light Uchechukwu’s phenomenal — and often very timely — 17 kills, Surinx’s 19 and the other-worldly defence of Julia Arnold, who scrounged up 24 digs on T-bird attacks, many in jaw-dropping fashion.
Andi Almonte contributed with a couple of service aces, as well as an extremely crucial kill in the fifth set to put the herd up 12-10.
By splitting the series with the now 16-2 T-birds, this Bisons team is still in the running for the top overall seed in the CanWest playoffs. In a tight race for first, the difference between a record of 14-4 and the Bisons’ current record of 15-3 is huge.
Seeking to end the T-bird’s eight-game winning streak last Friday, the herd was aided by the arrival of a new player to its roster.
Karil Dadash Adeh, the six-foot-eight right side with a thunderous lefty-serve, will surely help this Bisons team as it looks to lock down a playoff spot in the not-too-distant future.
Dadash Adeh certainly made his presence felt in the first match, smashing a Bison-high 12 kills.
Nevertheless, it was a losing effort for the herd, which was swept in straight sets 3-0.Looking to bounce back in the second match, the herd stampeded out of the gates to win the first set 25-21.
Riding the momentum of its first-set win, the herd cruised to a 3-1 victory in the match.
Eric Ogaranko led the way for the Bisons, registering 12 kills, including the final kill to give the herd the victory.
Sammy Ludwig also played very well, distributing countless crisp, deft sets to keep the UBC block off-kilter. He finished the match with 36 assists.
With the win, the herd improved its record to 11-7, which is good for sixth place in the CanWest standings.
After a bye-week, both Bisons volleyball squads will face off against the University of Winnipeg Wesmen on Feb. 2 and 3, each seeking to win their leg of the annual Duckworth Challenge.