Just as the University of Manitoba football squad was getting used to their new stadium digs, it's time for the team to hit the road.
The Bisons are packing this week for a trip to B.C., where they'll take on the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds on Saturday.
Home cooking has been fun for the Bisons this year -- there was that ridiculous 65-41 win over Alberta in week one, then a nailbiter 36-34 loss to Saskatchewan last week, both in front of stellar crowds at Investors Group Field. Now, receiver Anthony Smith said, the team's ready to head out.
"This game should be a statement game for us," said Smith, who grew up on Vancouver Island. "It should be. I have a lot of confidence in this team, I think we should really show Western Canada who we are, how good we are... We're making noise in the league now."
After Saturday's game, head coach Brian Dobie told the media it had been years since he saw that much fight in a Bisons football team. Smith, a second-year Bison, agreed: not only have players been stepping up on the field, he said, but the new facillity is having a big effect.
"As much as it's been talked about, the stadium is a huge part of that," he said. "We all like to hang out in the locker-room now and not leave as quick as possible. We all work out together. It's the bonding part that you can't teach."
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On the matter of things that can't be taught, consider Bisons volleyball coach Garth Pischke's experience. For 32 years, Pischke has been at the helm of the men's team. This season, though, he'll be taking a breather. On Tuesday, the Bisons announced Pischke will take a six-month sabbatical.
He'll be back after that, Bisons spokesman Chris Zuk said, but with a young roster this year, it seemed a good time to let someone else take over for a bit.
"He just wanted to have a break, recharge the batteries," said Zuk.
Pischke's break also gives the Bisons a chance to give two other coaches experience with the university team. Former Wesmen athlete and Coll®ge Jeanne Sauv© head coach Cam Johnson will take over as head coach this season, while Red River College coach and former Bison athlete Ryan Ratushniak will serve as his assistant. Both have experience coaching with Pischke and both know many of the incoming rookies from club teams, Zuk said.
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The Bisons also put a spotlight on two stars this week, as Courtney Addison and Josh Wytinck were named the athletes of the week.
Addison, a rookie forward on the women's soccer squad, played in her first game of the season last weekend. She played all 90 minutes in the 1-0 loss and brought big pressure against the visiting Regina team, including a shot on goal. The Winnipegger was named team MVP of the match.
Wytinck, now in his fifth year with Bisons golf, was co-winner of the 2013 Augsburg Fall Invitational tournament in Minnesota last weekend, tying teammate Charlie Boyechko for the individual title with a 144 score.
The Glenboro product also won the individual title at the 2013 Concordia tournament in Moorhead, Minn., with a 10-under 134 score.