Bisons bag bronze at U-Sports championships

Number one seeded herd lost tight semifinal, rebounded in bronze medal match

The U of M women’s volleyball team played for the chance to win a national title this past weekend at the 2024 U-Sports championship, hosted by McMaster University.

Ranked as the number one team in the eight-team tournament and coming off a CanWest championship win, the Bisons seemed poised to capture its first national championship since the 2013-14 season.

Quarterfinal match

In the one-versus-eight quarterfinal matchup, the Bisons faced off against the Saint Mary’s University Huskies.

The ranking discrepancy showed, as the Bisons dispatched the Huskies with ease, nabbing a 3-1 victory.

Light Uchechukwu performed especially well for the herd, smashing home 19 kills to go along with seven digs.

Katreena Bentley shared the ball effectively, dishing out 41 marvellous assists as well.

Eve Catojo hit an uber-efficient .438 from the middle, accumulating seven big kills in the process. Catojo even chipped in with a couple of assists, too.

With the win, the herd were set to face a fellow CanWest squad in the semifinal — the fourth-ranked University of Alberta (U of A) Pandas.

Semifinal match

With a chance to play in the gold-medal match, both the herd and the Pandas came out with lots of energy.

The match was a back-and-forth, heavy-weight clash, as neither school could wrestle away momentum from the other for very long.

U of A took the first set 25-21, but the herd thundered back in the second, taking it 25-21 to even the match up at one set a piece.

Nevertheless, in the third set, the pesky Pandas quelled the U of M’s rally, restoring its one-set lead with a convincing 25-18 win.

With its back against the wall, the herd triumphed in the fourth set 25-22 to even the match up at two sets a piece and force a deciding fifth set.

The fifth set came down to the wire. After a U of A service error, the herd went up 16-15, needing to win by two points to advance.

Alberta managed to side-out, however, as it fed U-Sports Rookie of the Year Abby Guezen. It was her 33rd kill of the night.

Alberta then notched a fortunate ace, which seemed to have eyes as it hit Raya Surinx in the back corner of the court.

With the score 17-16 in favour of the Pandas, Ella Gray took a valiant swing, looking to level the score once again. However, she made an error, sending it out the back, ceding both a point and the match to the Pandas.

Overall, Surinx was the U of M’s most prolific attacker, registering 20 kills. Gray chipped in with 11 kills as well.

Bronze medal match

Looking to rebound from its disappointing semifinal loss, the herd matched up against the Acadia University Axewomen in the third-place match.

The match was never close. The herd won the first set 25-18, the second, 25-13, and the third, 25-17.

Manitoba throttled the Axewomen en route to winning a U-Sports bronze medal in straight sets, 3-0.

Several Bisons had notable performances.

Uchechukwu compiled 11 kills in her last game with the Bisons. Andi Almonte registered a trio of aces, and Brenna Bedosky’s arms proved very stiff, as she stymied a couple of Axewomen swings, picking up two blocks.

Overall, despite missing out on a U-Sports national championship, the Bisons had a remarkably successful season, finishing third in the country. The team compiled a record of 27 wins and five losses, and, of course, won the 2024 CanWest championships for the first time in the school’s history.

Expect the herd to swing for ever higher heights in the 2024-25 season, as a swath of key players have eligibility remaining.