Wesmen get help from archrivals

Bisons come through with unexpected win that allows U of W volleyball squad to advance

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Here’s a sentence nobody thought they’d ever read: the Winnipeg Wesmen cheered their hearts out for the Manitoba Bisons on Saturday night at the Duckworth Centre.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/03/2022 (270 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Here’s a sentence nobody thought they’d ever read: the Winnipeg Wesmen cheered their hearts out for the Manitoba Bisons on Saturday night at the Duckworth Centre.

But that’s exactly what happened as the Wesmen men’s volleyball team needed a big, big favour from their crosstown rivals to keep their season alive.

As the winners of the East Division regular-season title with an 11-7 record, the U of W earned the right to host one of Canada West’s three, four-team pools in the first round of conference playoffs this weekend. With the top two teams from each pool advancing to the second round, you’d figure a 2-1 record would easily get the job done, but that wasn’t the case as the Wesmen, Calgary Dinos, and the UBC-Okanagan Heat found themselves in quite the predicament.

Fourth-year libero Darian Picklyk of the University of Winnipeg Wesmen registered 12 digs against Calgary. (University of Winnipeg photo)

The Wesmen opened the event on Thursday with a thrilling, five-set victory over the Bisons, followed by the Dinos hanging on to beat the Heat in five. On Friday, Wesmen right-side hitter Daniel Thiessen set a school playoff record with kills in a playoff match (33) and tied the U of W’s record for digs in a playoff match (21), but the senior’s stellar performance wasn’t enough as the hosts lost 3-2 to UBC-Okanagan. Friday’s finale wasn’t anywhere near as exciting as Calgary made easy work of Manitoba, winning in three straight sets.

With a loss to their name, the Wesmen needed to respond with a victory over the undefeated Dinos, a top 10 team in the nation that went 13-5 in regular season. And that’s exactly what happened as the Wesmen rallied from a 2-1 deficit to hand the Dinos a 3-2 defeat (17-25, 25-22, 18-25, 26-24, 15-10). Thiessen, of course, led the way with 27 kills and 11 digs. It was a battle of two of the best attackers in the nation as the Dinos leaned heavily on their star outside hitter and fellow senior, Australian Hamish Hazelden, who had 24 kills.

“It was so much fun. Whenever I look at the stats I see his name on the leaderboards all the time,” Thiessen said post game.

“I was thinking ‘I can’t wait to go up against this guy.’ He played great tonight, too. He’s an unbelievable player. It was just fun to battle against him.”

The Wesmen also outshined the Dinos on defence with fourth-year libero Darian Picklyk registering 12 digs and fifth-year setter Michael Corrigan making a game-high 17. Picklyk gave Thiessen, who plans to play professionally next year, a lot of credit for the team’s success on the weekend.

“He’s not only one of the best players on the team but he’s also one of my best friends,” said Picklyk.

“Just hanging out with him every day, seeing him every day, and seeing him become the player that he is today is pretty crazy.”

Thiessen, Picklyk and Co. also got a boost from a pair of first-year players in middle Paxton Koop, nine kills, and outside hitter Jaxon Rose, who scored with 11 kills of his own.

“Jaxon played unbelievable tonight. That guy’s gonna be a star in the league,” said Thiessen.

“That guy is something else and it’s awesome to have him come off the bench. Paxton, too. He played super well and was efficient all weekend for us… It’s a real team effort.”

After the final point of the match, the entire Wesmen bench rushed the court to celebrate. Several players were surprised to learn afterward that they weren’t out of the woods yet. They still needed the winless Bisons, who had only one victory in their past eight matches heading into Saturday night, to close the pool out with a victory over the Heat in four sets or less.

The first tiebreaker is sets won/lost between tied teams, followed by sets won/lost all around. With the Dinos sweeping the Herd, they were in the clear. Since the U of M took the U of W to five on Thursday, the Wesmen had to sit in the stands and hope for the best.

Fortunately for them, their foes came through. The Bisons saved their best performance for last as they took down the Heat 3-1 (23-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-22) late Saturday night.

Despite going 7-11 in the regular season and coming up short this week, the Bisons will hit the court again at the end of the month at nationals as they’re hosting the event (March 25-27).

“It means everything. I’ve never had a playoff game at home before so for us to come out and get two wins and play well just means the world,” Thiessen said.

The Bisons women’s volleyball team saw their season come to a close on Saturday as their winless weekend in Saskatoon was capped with a five-set loss to UBC-Okanagan. The Wesmen women’s team didn’t fare any better in their pool in Edmonton as they also went 0-3, with their final loss coming at the hands of the Regina Cougars in four sets. Both the Bisons and Wesmen women’s teams were 6-10 in the regular season.

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

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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