By Danielle Doiron
Winnipeg, MB – The #5 University of Manitoba Bison men's volleyball team handed the #1 University of Alberta Golden Bears their first loss of the season on Friday, November 18. The Bisons took the first match of the weekend set 3-1 (20-25, 25-17, 25-18, 25-15) at Investors Group Athletic Centre.
Both teams entered Friday with four-game win streaks, but the Bisons are now 6-1, while the Golden Bears fall to 4-1.
And while Alberta started the weekend as the top-ranked team, Manitoba never trailed once during the final three sets.
"In games like that, that are so tight, you almost expect them to make a spoiler, sort of a push-back, and I'd have to call a timeout to settle them, and there was nothing," Bison head coach Garth Pischke said. "They just kept on plugging and plugging. These guys are kids, but they played like men tonight."
Manitoba veteran Devren Dear led both sides with 16 kills, while Alberta's Taryq Sani and Ryan Nickifor had 11 and 10, respectively.
Long Alberta serves, out-of-bounds calls and two service aces helped the Bisons take an early 9-5 lead in the first set, but the Golden Bears quickly responded. The visitors won the next five rallies to tie and then lead the game, and the Bisons couldn't catch up. Four Alberta attackers recorded at least three kills in the set alone (rookie Sani had four), compared to Manitoba's six team kills, and the Golden Bears took the first 25-20.
"I thought we played really well the first set," Pischke said. "It's just they had two or three really good digs on us, and they ended up winning the rallies."
A Ken Rooney kill gave the Bisons a 1-0 lead in the second, and the home side never trailed for the rest of the set. As in the first, the Golden Bears put up strong attacks, but the Bisons were relentless. Manitoba put up 16 kills in the second alone, even after Adam DeJonckheere (the team's leading hitter) left midway through with an ankle injury. The Bisons later won the set 25-17.
"At the point that (DeJonckheere) went down, he was our best player on the floor. He was a motivator … but (Scott Vercaigne) did an unbelievable job, and he's done that more than once for us this year, coming in off the bench," Pischke said.
Manitoba carried momentum from the second into the third to lead 16-11 at the technical timeout. After that, the Bisons never held less than a three-point advantage and eventually took the set 25-18.
The Bisons dominated in the fourth. For the third straight set, the home side scored first and never trailed. Dear led the way with six kills in the fourth, and Evan Jackson closed out the set – and the game – with two powerhouse kills to give the Bisons the set 25-15 and the match 3-1, to a standing ovation from the home crowd.
Game 2 of the weekend set takes place on Saturday at 3 p.m. CT at Investors Group Athletic Centre.
Set scores (Bisons listed first): 20-25, 25-17, 25-18, 25-15
MB: Devren Dear (16)
AB: Taryq Sani (11)
MB: Luke Herr (35)
AB: Brett Walsh (37)
MB: Luke Herr (7)
AB: Reed May (9)
Total block leaders
MB: Ken Rooney (7)
AB: Arran Chambers (3)