Wesmen down Bisons in thriller

U of W prevails in first game of Canada West volleyball playoffs

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The latest chapter in the Winnipeg Wesmen-Manitoba Bisons rivalry certainly is a good one.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/03/2022 (272 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The latest chapter in the Winnipeg Wesmen-Manitoba Bisons rivalry certainly is a good one.

The crosstown foes opened the first round of the Canada West men’s volleyball playoffs on Thursday night at the Duckworth Centre with the Wesmen prevailing in a five-set thriller (16-25, 25-20, 20-25, 25-18, 15-12).

The Wesmen earned the right to host one of the conference’s three, four-team regional pools for the first round of playoffs as they won the East Division with an 11-7 record. Despite going 3-3 against the U of W in the regular season, the Bisons (7-11) finished fourth in the East, a division that also featured the Brandon Bobcats (9-9) and Saskatchewan Huskies (9-9).

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The University of Winnipeg Wesmen won a five-set thriller against the University of Manitoba Bisons Canada West men’s volleyball playoff action Thursday night at the U of W.

The Wesmen and Bisons are in a playoff pool with the Calgary Dinos (13-5) and UBC Okanagan Heat (10-6) with the top two teams from the weekend advancing to the second round. The Dinos beat the Heat 3-2 (25-16, 25-18, 19-25, 22-25, 15-13) in Thursday’s finale at the Duckworth.

With Calgary being a favourite to advance as one of the top teams in the nation, Thursday night’s battle of the Winnipeg schools was massive.

“It was back and forth. We knew they were gonna come for it. They were picking up every single ball that we put at them, it was wild,” said Wesmen fourth-year libero Darian Picklyk.

“But we just stayed with those long rallies and I think that’s what it came down to. Those last timeouts at the end we really got together and trusted each other. But yeah, that was really big. I think just starting the weekend with a win, especially against a rival, is huge.”

Fifth-year right-side Daniel Thiessen led the way for the red, white and black with 25 kills, eight digs, and five block assists. Outside hitter Nigel Nielsen had 11 kills and freshman middle Paxton Koop had seven kills off the bench. For the visitors, Australian left-side Ben Carleton was the main source of offence for the Herd with 14 kills. Teammate Spencer Grahame chipped in with 11 kills but it wasn’t enough. A pair of hitting errors by the Bisons at the end of the fifth set and some clutch serves from Thiessen ended up being the difference.

It’s no surprise to see Thiessen dominate the night as the Glenlawn Collegiate product broke the U of W’s program record for career kills in Canada West last weekend. Thiessen leads the conference in kills (305) and kills per set this season (4.55).

“It was a typical Winnipeg-Manitoba parking lot scrap,” said Wesmen bench boss Larry McKay.

“A lot of it doesn’t seem to be about volleyball, it’s more about guys playing against guys that they grew up with and those types of things. It was essentially a tie and we were fortunate to get a couple points at the end there. There’s almost nothing separating both teams.”

The Bisons will likely have to win their next two matches to advance. They’re on a bit of a slide lately as they’ve only won once in their past seven outings. Regardless of what happens this weekend, the Bisons are locked in for U Sports nationals March 25-27 as the tournament hosts.

“They wanted it bad. They’re at home. They wanted it more today but we’re gonna come back and win our next two games,” said Carleton, a third-year player.

“It sucks, it hurts, but it’s not over. It doesn’t matter to us anymore. We’ll move on and win our next two games.”

The Wesmen have a lot of work to do to earn a spot at nationals, but Thursday’s result was a big step in the right direction. The two teams that advance from the weekend will be a part of two new pools of three which will then decide Canada West’s final four.

“Whoever plays the best volleyball this weekend in terms of error management, I think will advance,” said McKay. “It’s not about being the biggest and most physical… it’s the team that executes the skills the best so that gives us hope as the hosts.”

The Wesmen play UBC Okanagan at 6 p.m. tonight followed by the Herd squaring off against Calgary at 7:45 p.m. U of W also kicks off the night on Saturday, the final day of first round pool play, in a meeting with Dinos before the Bisons end the weekend against the Heat.

The Wesmen women’s volleyball team (6-10), who are in a pool in Edmonton with the Alberta Pandas (16-2), UBC Thunderbirds (9-7), and Regina Cougars (5-11), dropped their first match on Thursday with a 3-1 loss to UBC. The lady Bisons are in Saskatoon and fell 3-1 to the host Saskatchewan Huskies (14-2). The Mount Royal Cougars (14-4) and UBC-Okanagan (8-8) round out their pool.

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
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Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...

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Updated on Friday, March 4, 2022 7:47 AM CST: Corrects time of game against UBC; updates with score of Dinos vs. Heat game

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