They likely have the youngest team in the Canada West conference, but the University of Winnipeg Wesmen women's volleyball team is just a couple of wins away from a playoff spot.
But the Wesmen (6-10) didn't get the win Wednesday night in the U of M's Investors Group Athletic Centre, losing 25-23, 25-14, 25-19 to the University of Manitoba Bisons (13-5), a team that is ranked No. 3 in the country and includes national team players Ashley Voth and Samantha Loewen.
In the men's match, Wesmen middle Justin Duff could not be stopped as he led the No. 7-ranked Wesmen (9-5) to a 13-25, 25-21, 25-18, 26-26 victory over the No. 10-ranked Bisons (7-9). The Wesmen are holding the third playoff spot while the Bisons are now in a battle with the Saskatchewan Huskies, who visit the U of M Feb. 12-13, for the seventh and final Canada West playoff spot.
"They came out swinging hard after that first set," Bisons libero Ryan Munt said. "You know Justin Duff is going to get most of the sets, but he's tough to stop."
The Bisons women have clinched a playoff spot while the Wesmen are just two points back of the Calgary Dinos, who are clinging to the seventh and final playoff berth.
"It could come down to the final weekend for us against Calgary," said Wesmen head coach Diane Scott, whose team led the Bisons 20-17 in the first set.
"Right now, we just have to win more games than Calgary because they have one more win than us. They play Brandon this weekend, we play Regina and then we go head to head on that final weekend.
"I've had more fun coaching this year than I ever have. I see such potential here.
"I'm very pleased with the way we came out and handled this match and we've competed very hard like that all season."
Scott said this team is her youngest since a group that started in 2000 and two years later were national silver medallists.
"This group feels similar to that one in terms of athleticism, work ethic and skill," Scott said. "We've been in every match this year, competed and won more matches (than last year)."
Scott said left-sides Sonia Rossy and Carleen Kruschel and setter Danica Hughes have started this entire season.
"We're starting out together as a really young team and we're all having the chance to contribute and we're working toward what we can potentially become," said Rossy, a first-year left-side from Westwood Collegiate.
"I'm very fortunate to be starting and that Diane has given me the opportunity in my first year to get this much playing experience."
Sarah Morrissette led the Bisons with 10 kills and Kristi Hunter had nine. Lauren Sears had 13 kills to lead the Wesmen.
The men's match started out looking like the Bisons would crush their guests, but it ended up exactly the opposite.
The Wesmen were led by a dominant performance from the left side by veteran Andrew Town with 14 kills,
"We had the weekend off and got off to a slow start, but we know we have a very versatile team and we can set everyone, so things started flowing after that," said Town, the only fifth-year Wesmen player.
The Bisons were led by Chris Voth with 14 kills and Dane Pischke with 11 kills.
2009-2010 Dr. Dale Iwanoczko Memorial Volleyball Scholarships
Four schlolarships of $750 are awarded annually to four high school students in honour of Iwanoczko, a former five-time all-Canadian and University of Manitoba Bisons player who passed away Sept. 15, 1998 at the age of 30 after a battle with cancer.
For the first time, a scholarship for a returning university men's player was presented ed, a $1,500 award.
Bisons men's winner: Ryan Munt, a third year libero/left-side player from East St. Paul who attended Miles Macdonell Collegiate.
High school winners:
Camilla Thorne-Tjomsland, a 6-foot middle player from College Jeanne Sauve Olympiens, has a 90 per cent average. She helped her team earn a 12-0 record in league play and a conference championship.
Jenna Moffatt, a 5-foot-5 setter from the Elton Sabres of Forrest, Man., has a 90 per cent average and helped her team win bronze and silver medals at provincials in previous years before earning gold this year.
Brett Young, a 6-foot-3 left-side player from the Souris Sabres, has a 82 per cent average. He helped lead his team to a third straight undefeated season in league play.
Devyn Plett, a 6-foot-2 setter from the Mennonite Brethren Hawks, has a 85 per cent average. He helped lead his team to the AAAA provincial championship where he was the MVP.