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Setting a high standard

Bisons riding inspired play of rookie setter

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Chris KOMISHON went from spectator to starter in an instant this season for the University of Manitoba Bisons.

Now there's talk the 20-year-old setter could get the nod as Canada West men's volleyball rookie of the year. In volleyball's equivalent of the quarterback position, Komishon has led the No. 5-ranked Bisons to an 11-1 record, the team's best start in eight years.

Not bad for a guy who red-shirted (practice roster) last season due to a glut of setters in the program.

"In the last half of the year, he probably sat once or twice in practice because we had to work with the two guys that were on the roster," said Bisons head coach Garth Pischke. "He's done a great job and shown a ton of composure in a situation that could have been very, very difficult."

The Bisons saw both of last season's setters, T.J. Sanders and Zach Diboll, who shared the position, leave the university at the end of the school year.

Fortunately for the Bisons, Komishon stuck around -- and stepped up.

"He's one of the biggest reasons why we're doing as well as we are," Pischke said. "He's just playing fantastic."

Komishon, who won two AAAA high school provincial titles with the St. Paul's Crusaders, said he joined the Bisons last year though there was no hope of playing so he could at least train with his friends.

He played club volleyball with Chris Voth, Derek Nieroda and Dane Pischke and was coached by Garth Pischke and also played high school volleyball with Voth and Nieroda.

"It's just such a great group here and I just figured if I worked hard I'd eventually get an opportunity," Komishon said. "Garth gave me that shot this year and once I got it, it was just like I have such good chemistry with the guys on the court that I was comfortable and it made for an easier transition."

The last time the Bisons had a group like this was in 2005-06 when the 13-7 team won bronze at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship.

This edition of the Bisons is considered young as the bulk of the starters are third-year players including right-side Dane Pischke, left-side Voth, middles Carson Kauenhowen and Joe Brooks and libero Nieroda. Captain Ryan Munt, a left-side player, is the veteran in his fourth year.

"We have a lot of fun on the court, we play with a lot of energy and it's just contagious," Komishon said.

The Bisons will be getting their biggest test of the season this weekend when they host the No. 2-ranked Alberta Golden Bears for a two-game series.

"Alberta is the best team in the country right now," coach Pischke said.

The Bisons have played the Bears just once this season, in Edmonton at the pre-season Can-Am Challenge tournament. The Bisons had their hats handed to them, losing in straight sets (22-25, 15-25, 13-25).

"That was a pretty bad loss. It was one of my first games," Komishon said.

"We know we're not the same team as we were back then and we feel we can come out a lot stronger. We respect Alberta but there's no backing down."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2011 C5

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