Alyssa Etsell, Bison Sports
WINNIPEG – Despite a strong third set from the Bisons, the Thompson Rivers WolfPack tussled and came out with a 3-1 (25-22, 25-20, 19-25, 18-25) win against the University of Manitoba Bisons on Saturday night (Jan. 26) at the Investors Group Athletic Centre.
The weekend was a sweep for Thompson Rivers, and with just four games left before playoffs, the wins were important. The WolfPack's record improved to 9-8 and moved them to sixth place in Canada West.
Manitoba tried to carry the momentum from the third set into the fourth, battling from behind from the beginning of the set. At half, Thompson Rivers led by four, and despite attempts to drive the score in their favour, Manitoba couldn't pull through. The WolfPack ended the set with a 25-18 win.
"I'm a little disappointed at some of the bad breaks we got in this game and that could have made a difference," said Bison head coarch Garth Pischke. "It was such a momentum game, and when things are going well and then all of a sudden you get what you think is not the right call, you have to try to forget about it, but sometimes it's not that easy."
Pischke had noted after last night's matchup that a key to the Bisons success in this game was going to be figuring out how to shut down TRU's Tim Dobbert.
Dobbert racked up the kills with a total of 19, but in comparison to the previous night's 27, it seemed the Bisons were successful in trying. Bison Kevin Negus had the most kills for his team at 13.
The Bisons took an early lead in the third set, and a turning point came for the Herd halfway, as they shut down TRU and amassed six unanswered points. A Dustin Spiring kill nudged the score to 23-18, which was quickly followed by a service ace. Sam Taylor Parks served short and the Bisons urged a fourth set (25-19).
WolfPack head coach Patrick Hennelly credits libero Landon Currie as a difference maker in the game.
"I feel really good [about how we played," said Hennelly. "I thought Currie really stepped up with some great digs, that's always something we're behind in if you look at our stats in the last couple weeks, so it was good to see that come into play."
Currie and Anton Napolitano tied for most digs with eight. For Manitoba, Dylan Sutherland chocked 10.
A solid block by the Bisons started the second set scoring, though a series of orchestrated powerful spikes at mid-court racked up the kills for Thompson Rivers and gave them an early lead. Halfway through, the WolfPack led by one and they pulled ahead from there (23-19). TRU's Charlie Bringloe stole the ball right out of the air and sent it straight to the ground before anyone on the Bisons could react and the visitors won the set 25-20.
The first set opened with a point-for-point battle, much like yesterday's matchup, as the Bisons worked hard to shut down Dobbert's kills at all cost. At technical timeout, the Bisons fell behind by three (16-13), and despite the attempts to keep Dobbert at bay, his razor-sharp spike proved to be uncontainable. As the set creeped to a close, the Bisons ran up a four-point streak (21-19). Sam Taylor Parks took a mean mid-court kill to put the WolfPack within set point, and a blocking error by the Bisons sealed the set for the WolfPack at 25-22.
Next weekend sends Thompson Rivers home to play No. 1-ranked Brandon University Bobcats. The first game of that matchup starts at 6:45 p.m. PST on Feb. 1. Manitoba takes on cross-town rivals University of Winnipeg Wesmen in the Duckworth Challenge.