Bisons nab victory in CanWest final

After blowing 2-0 lead, Bisons triumph in five over UBC

The University of Manitoba women’s volleyball team squared off against the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds this past weekend in the CanWest championship final. Both schools dominated the CanWest volleyball standings all season long, finishing second and first respectively.

Moreover, in regular season play, each team beat the other once.

As the Thunderbirds finished atop the CanWest regular season standings, the game was played on UBC’s home court — War Memorial Gymnasium in Vancouver, B.C.

It would seem only natural, then, that these two volleyball titans would go on to play one of the most entertaining championship games in recent memory.

In the first set, the Bisons came out on fire. Led by the orchestration of first-team CanWest all-star Katreena Bentley, the Bisons’ offence looked fluid and dangerous.

Capitalizing on its great start, the Bisons nabbed a stellar first-set victory, 25-17, which was capped off by a thunderous Light Uchechukwu kill.

The Bisons blitzed UBC in the second set as well, leading by as much as 11 before closing it out 25-17, this time on a UBC service error.

In the third, the T-birds clawed back into the match even though, at one point, the herd nursed a 24-22 match-point lead.

Ultimately, some clutch hitting from Morris, Man.’s own Erika Vermette allowed UBC to scrape a narrow 26-24 third-set victory.

In the fourth, the herd led by a considerable margin once again. However, UBC came back, erasing a late 22-19 deficit to win 25-23.

In the decisive, winner-take-all fifth set, it was UBC who got off to a good start. Leading the herd 4-0 early, it seemed as though the Bisons were on the precipice of collapse.

Nevertheless, as UBC had done in the previous two sets, the herd mounted a comeback.

Finished off by a couple of excellent Ella Gray kills, the herd eluded a UBC comeback with a 15-12 fifth-set victory and won the CanWest championship in the process.

Several Bisons played particularly well in the championship match.

Libero Julia Arnold — recently dubbed a CanWest second team all-star — was outstanding for the herd, digging 21 UBC attacks and recycling countless Bison attacks as well. Her otherworldly defence was integral to the Bisons’ victory.

Equally integral was Bentley, who dished out 47 assists and played with great energy the whole match. Like Arnold, she never gave up on any balls, no matter how far she had to sprint to track them down.

The Bisons’ robust presence in the middle cannot be understated either. Eve Catojo and Brenna Bedosky combined for a total of 10 blocks and 11 kills.

Offensively, Uchechukwu and Gray lead the herd in kills with 15 each.

Likewise, Raya Surinx, who was recently awarded the distinction of CanWest women’s volleyball player of the year, also recorded 15 kills. Bentley fed the player of the year frequently — 57 times, in fact.

The Bisons’ victory over UBC marked the first CanWest championship for the Bisons’ women’s volleyball program.

Next up, the Bisons will fly to Ontario to participate in the 2024 U-Sports volleyball championships hosted by McMaster University. The herd is looking to capture its first national championship in a decade, as it last won in 2014.