Mike Still, Bison Sports
WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Wesmen bounced back from a 2-1 set deficit to beat the Manitoba Bisons in five on Friday at the Investors Group Athletic Centre (25-20, 17-25, 22-25, 25-23, 15-12).
The victory also gave the Wesmen their second straight victory in the 28th annual Duckworth Challenge after winning in both men's and women's basketball the night before. Manitoba had taken the women's soccer portion earlier in the year.
Outside hitter Adrian Dyck led the way with 15 kills, while right side Kevin Negus had a massive 27 kills in the loss.
"Adrian's a really gifted, talented player," Wesmen head coach Larry McKay said postgame. "He can do everything pretty well and he's a big part of our team."
The building was also electric, with fans from both schools coming out in full force to pack IGAC.
"There was lots of intensity," Mckay said. "There was probably more of it than there had been for our team all season so it was an exciting matchup to participate in."
The opening set was a back-and-forth battle, as Manitoba's veterans Dustin Spiring and Kevin Negus were strong on the attack, however the Wesmen countered with some stellar blocking.
The hosts entered the technical timeout up 16-13 on the strength of ten combined kills from Spiring and Negus. But the Wesmen battled back, outscoring Manitoba 12-7 down the stretch, including five straight points. Setter Mikael Clegg and middle Ethan Duncan were massive during that run, with two blocks each.
Long rallies were the story of the second set. Spiring, setter Jack Mandryk and left side Owen Schwartz from Manitoba and Clegg and Duncan from Winnipeg displayed stellar composure, laying their bodies on the line to keep multiple points alive.
Yet again, the hosts entered the technical timeout up 16-13, however this time they wouldn't let the Wesmen gain sustained momentum, winning 25-17 on the strength of a .424 hitting percentage.
Negus was hitting .367 after two with 14 kills, while rookie Zach Janzen had three critical kills in the second on some solid assists from Mandryk. The Wesmen were paced by Adrian Dyck, who had five kills through two, while Clegg was hitting .500 with four kills.
"We've sort of been lacking in our middle attack for the last six games probably. Jack [Mandryk] I thought did a really good job of getting it going," Bisons head coach Garth Pischke said postgame of the setter's ability to find the open hole.
"Hopefully we can get it going with Brendan [Warren] a little bit more too, because it makes it easier for our outside hitters. Kevin [Negus], no matter how many blockers he had tonight was going to score."
Winnipeg began the third set on a roll, taking lead by as much as four at 15-11. Their performance down the pipe was a big factor, as Clegg and Duncan opted not to challenge Manitoba's conference-leading blockers such as Brendan Warren and Schwartz at the net. Duncan was the major catalyst with four kills.
But the Bison fought back with five straight to take the lead into the technical timeout. Libero Kyle Martens was massive during the run with two humongous digs, including a diving play cross-court that set up a Negus kill.
Manitoba would stay back slightly due to the play of the Wesmen in the middle, and the visitors would capitalize with some emphatic kills near the net. Dyck was the catalyst with four overall.
But the hosts kept their composure, battling back from a 22-21 deficit for the 25-22 win. Negus was massive yet again, including a kill that likely dented the floor boards, while the Wesmen shot themselves in the foot with a couple critical errors late. They had nine total, while Manitoba had just four.
For the second set in a row, Winnipeg would race out to 15 points, this time leading 15-12 on the strength of four kills from Dyck. But again, the Bisons made an enormous push to lead 16-15 at the technical. Middle Brendan Warren was huge with two big blocks and a critical kill.
But the Wesmen kept their composure. They took a 19-18 lead and didn't relinquish it, getting a couple massive blocks from Duncan as well as the set-winning kill from Dyck to take the fourth 25-23.
The Wesmen had found their rhythm, taking an 8-5 lead midway through the fifth set. Garrett Jones was a huge factor with two kills and a block.
Spiring — playing in his last home game for Manitoba — got the Bisons back in it with a couple of massive kills, however it wasn't enough. The visitors were strong on their serve-receive and Dyck would end it with a big kill for the 15-12 set win.
With the win, the Wesmen advance to 6-11 while the Bisons fell to 7-12. Both teams will be back at it tomorrow at the U of W to complete the home-and-home at 7 p.m.