By Danielle Doiron
Winnipeg, MB – The #3 University of Manitoba Bisons men's volleyball team is riding an 11 conference match win streak after an intense start to the second half of the season against the UBC Thunderbirds on Friday, January 13 night at Investors Group Athletic Centre. The Bisons came out on top after five closely fought sets (25-22, 26-24, 21-25, 19-25, 15-12), marking the end of UBC's four-game win streak.
The Bisons are now 12-1 after a conference bye last week, while the Thunderbirds fall to 8-5 after sweeping UBC Okanagan in last weekend's two-game set. Friday was the first meeting between Manitoba and UBC this season.
"We started off alright, but we didn't really block well the whole match," Bison head coach Garth Pischke said after the game, "but our passing and service kept us in it the first couple sets. We managed to squeak those out, but then when our passing went … honestly we got kind of lucky.
"We stayed aggressive. That was the main thing. If you do that, sometimes you'll get a chance, and you can capitalize on it."
Manitoba's Devren Dear led both teams with 20 kills, while UBC's Irvan Brar racked up 17. Luke Herr had 44 assists and 11 digs for the Bisons.
The teams set the pace for the first set on the opening serves. UBC then Manitoba served long, and each team followed with a kill. The back-and-forth play continued for the rest of the set. Manitoba maintained a slight edge through the final rallies, thanks to back-to-back Dear kills, and a powerful Adam DeJonckheere attack gave the Bisons the first set 25-22.
The game stayed just as tight in the second. Manitoba got off to an early 7-4 lead and never trailed until the end of the set. The Thunderbirds tied the game four times before third-year Byron Keturakis' service ace gave UBC a 21-20 lead. But the Bisons tied the game back up and eventually subbed in Herr, who fed Dear for the final two kills of the set, which Manitoba took 26-24.
In the third, UBC capitalized on three Evan Jackson attack errors in a row to win six consecutive rallies and take a 13-8 lead. The Bisons fought back and brought the game within a single point, but the Thunderbirds answered back, winning two rallies of their own. A Jackson kill later kept Manitoba alive and held UBC at match point, but the visitors closed out the third on a kill to take it 25-21.
Neither team gained more than a one-point lead in the fourth until midway through the set. The Bisons lost the serve, and UBC put up three kills – including two from Mat Guidi – to get ahead 17-14. Manitoba never recovered from the deficit and, after a disputed call saw the Bisons lose the serve late in the game, the Thunderbirds won their second set 25-19 on a Cam Fennema kill.
The fifth opened with four combined service errors before the teams switched sides at the halfway point. Manitoba trailed UBC slightly, but the Bisons tightened up their act and, after calling a timeout, won the next two rallies. UBC briefly took back the lead, but a serve streak from Dear put the home side back in control. After the Thunderbirds were awarded on a disputed call the Bisons thought was out of bounds, a huge Jackson kill won the set for Manitoba 15-12.
"Devren had a nice run serving and got us back into the game. Otherwise, we probably wouldn't have pulled it off," Pischke said. "That was really only our saving grace that kept us going. (UBC) played very well and passed very well up until the end there, and we managed to get lucky."
Friday's win is Pischke's 1,299th throughout his 35-year coaching career at Manitoba.
The teams finish up their two-game weekend set on Saturday at 3 p.m. CT at Investors Group Athletic Centre.
(Bisons listed first): 25-22, 26-24, 21-25, 19-25, 15-12
MB: Devren Dear (20)
UBC: Irvan Brar (17)
MB: Luke Herr (44)
UBC: Byron Keturakis (43)
MB: Luke Herr (11)
UBC: Byron Keturakis (11)