If you saw University of Manitoba Bisons women's volleyball setter Sam Loewen in the crowd Friday night cheering for the Winnipeg Wesmen at the Investors Group Athletic Centre, no need to get your eyes checked.
Sam Loewen, 21, was risking life and limb surrounded by brown-and-gold to support her younger brother Ty, 19, who is a rookie outside hitter with the Wesmen.
Sam, a fourth-year Bison, said she's loyal to her school but family is a tie that binds.
"He's my brother and when he's on the court, I have to go with him," said Sam, who helped lead the Bisons to a 25-22, 25-19, 25-22 win over the Wesmen. In the men's match, the Bisons defeated Ty and the youthful Wesmen squad 25-16, 25-19, 25-14. "It's fun for us to have that school rivalry. We're a competitive family so I'll be in his face about it!"
The Bisons won the 2010 Duckworth Trophy in front of an IGAC crowd of about 1,400. Friday's two matches were the volleyball leg of the 20th annual Duckworth Challenge.
The Duckworth Challenge is a fun annual competition held within league play between the men's and women's basketball and volleyball teams from the U of W and U of M. The Bisons now have a 10-5-5 record all-time in the event.
After the match, Ty joked that he was preparing himself for the verbal onslaught.
"If she tries anything, I'm sure I'll fight her when I get home!" Ty said, laughing. "I've supported her through going to U of M, even though it's not U of W, so I'll keep that going. I'm happy for her because she's got a good team there and I'm excited that I'm having a chance to start in my first year with the Wesmen."
The players of the game were Winnipeg's Mackenzie Jeffrey (14 kills) and Manitoba's Rachel Cockrell (12 kills) in the women's match with Dan Lother of Winnipeg and Joseph Brooks of Manitoba taking honours in the men's match.
In the basketball leg of the competition on Thursday at the Duckworth Centre, the Wesmen women beat the Bisons 67-44 while the Bisons men beat the Wesmen 80-62. The players of the game were Stephanie Kleysen and Brayden Duff of Winnipeg and Manitoba's Allison Balasko and Richard Reimer.
With the Loewen siblings, volleyball is the family business. Sam and Ty are both graduates of the River East Kodiaks program, dad Al has coached the Kodiaks and provincial teams for a number of years and mom Paula (Wickenden) is a former Bisons player.
Because it was the 20th anniversary of the Duckworth Challenge, players of the game from years past were introduced and presented with commemorative shirts.
Bisons women's head coach Ken Bentley (25 years), Wesmen head coach Diane Scott (16 years), Bisons men's coach Garth Pischke (30) and Wesmen men's coach Larry McKay (22 years) have witnessed many Challenges over the years.
"It was so great to see how many of the former great players who are such great people came out, it helps show the value in the Challenge, there's enough history behind it that people can identify with it and the added intensity of the match that it brings," Bentley said after the match.
McKay said seeing the former players gave great perspective to his young team.
"It gives them a sense of where they sit in their careers," McKay said. "We talk so much about the history of our volleyball program, 10 national championships, and I tell these young guys, these great players, they started right where you are."