Matt Johnson, Huskie Athletics
SASKATOON - The University of Manitoba Bisons men's volleyball team redeemed themselves after their loss the previous night, as they hung on to win 3-2 (26-24, 25-23, 20-25, 19-25, 15-12) on You Can Play Night over the Saskatchewan Huskies Saturday, Jan. 19 inside the PAC.
"It's hard right now to find a positive in a loss, especially in a match we desperately need to win for playoff implications. I give Manitoba credit, they came in here with some fight," said Huskies head coach Nathan Bennett.
Manitoba hasn't missed the playoffs since the 2013-14 season, and the club picked up a crucial win for their postseason hopes on Saturday night.
Ben Carleton and Dustin Spring each paced the Bisons with 16 kills in the win. Kevin Negus had two service aces for the visitors, while Dylan Sutherland led his team with 42 assists.
Colin Fraser had a game-high 23 kills for the Huskies to go along with a .500 hitting percentage. Dylan Mortenson picked up 21 kills of his own for Saskatchewan in the loss. C.J. Gavlas had a game-high 54 assists.
The two clubs were nearly equally efficient on the night, with the Bisons narrowly edging out the Huskies with a 0.298 hitting percentage, compared to a .295 clip for the hosts.
Manitoba picks up their third win in their past four games and rises to 7-9 with the victory, while Saskatchewan moved to 8-8 with the loss.
Saskatchewan came out of the gates looking to make it two consecutive victories over Manitoba, as the hosts led 11-6 in the first frame. However, kills from Sutherland and Carelton helped the Bisons trim the lead. The teams kept exchanging points until late in the frame, as C.J. Gavlas provided a thunderous block to make it 22-21 in favor of the Huskies.
However, the Bisons responded moments later with a big-time block of their own as Sutherland stood up Fraser to bring the visitors back within one. But Mortenson delivered a monster kill which made the score 24-22 in favor of the Huskies. However, the Bisons reeled off three consecutive points to of their own to give them a chance at set point, and they took advantage of the opportunity as Zach Janzen picked up the block to make it 26-24 for the visitors.
The second set played out similarly to the first, as it was a steady exchange of points throughout the entirety of the frame. Cody Caldwell recorded back-to-back kills for the Huskies, to trim the Bisons lead to one.
But after a Janzen kill Manitoba took a 24-21 lead. Despite Daulton Sinoski's best effort to trim the lead with the kill, Carleton put the second set away for the visitors, to give them a 2-0 lead.
The Bisons were dominant in the frame, as they finished with a .500 hitting percentage and 13 kills and only two kills. The visitors were able to keep the Huskies in check, as they held them to a .269 clip.
Saskatchewan got out to a stronger start in the third set, as they fought for their lives in the match. Two consecutive blocks from Daulton Sinoski helped the Huskies get out to a 15-10 lead. Aidan Saldana tallied two kills late in the frame to help give the home side a 20-15 advantage.
After an Owen Schwartz service error, Fraser went to work as he banged off back-to-back big-time kills for Saskatchewan to make it 23-19. Dylan Mortenson closed the set out for the Huskies with a punishing finish to make it 25-20, forcing a fourth set.
The Huskies were efficient in the third, as they recorded 17 kills to three errors, to go along with a .424 hitting percentage, which was ultimately the difference in the frame.
Off the backs of a quartet of errors by Manitoba, Saskatchewan doubled up the visitors early in the fourth, as the score stood at 12-6. The Huskies continued to hang onto their lead throughout the set, and a powerful Mortenson spike made it 22-16. After Fraser forced set point, Sinoski delivered the dagger to force the final set by making it 25-19 for Saskatchewan.
The Huskies efficiency in the fourth frame proved to be the difference, as they finished the set with a .400 hitting percentage, 13 kills, and only three errors. On the other end, the Bisons had nine kills and eight errors, which led to a .040 hitting percentage.
Manitoba set the pace immediately in the fifth and final set as Negus picked up a monster kill, which was followed by a beautiful set-attack by Janzen to keep it all square. The Bisons entered the technical timeout with an 8-7 lead, thanks to a Dustin Spring kill. However, the Huskies kept hanging around as Mortenson's 21st kill of the night gave his team a 12-11 lead. However, Manitoba battled back, and a block from Brenden Warren allowed the visitors to take a 13-12 lead.
"Our team needs to learn how to put a weekend together, so far we haven't been able to do that against good teams. We're waiting for that; hopefully, it comes next weekend," said Bennett.
Saskatchewan heads west next weekend to take on Alberta, as they attempt to gain ground on the Golden Bears in the standings. Meanwhile, Manitoba returns home as they play host to the Thompson Rivers WolfPack.