Alyssa Etsell, Bison Sports
WINNIPEG – The University of Manitoba Bisons battled their way to victory in a turbulent four-set (25-19, 23-25, 25-23, 27-25) match against the Brandon University Bobcats on Saturday afternoon.
The air was tense at the Investors Group Athletic Centre when Brandon took the second set and propelled the game to four sets. Manitoba took charge of the chaos in the fourth and secured a weekend sweep.
"Well, I've aged about ten years this weekend it feels like," said Bison head coach Ken Bentley. "It was a hard series, Brandon played great and we had to have some tenacity today. I think we did a really good job of that today."
Late in the fourth, the Herd rolled forward and executed a substantial lead for the first time in the set (21-18). The Bobcats heaved toward the end and tied the game at 22. At 24 even, a receiving error by the Bisons bumped the Bobcats to set point. A dump by Jocelyn Koswin tied the game at 25. A receiving error by Brandon put Manitoba within a win and an attack error by Brandon gave the set to the home team, 27-25.
The win improves Manitoba's record to 5-7, while Brandon moves to 3-9. Nikala Majewski was the star of the Bobcats, contributing 17 kills and 17 digs to the team's total. For Manitoba, fifth-years Tori Studler and Cassie Bujan led the way with 13 kills and 24 digs, respectively.
The Bobcats pounced late in the third set and came close to a tie at 20-19. The Bisons answered back and Laura Hill made sure a set win was within reach (24-22) before an error by the visitors secured the triumph (25-23). Hill would finish with 11 kills and 17 digs.
Bentley credits the hard work the team has put in this season on maintaining a high level of fitness for the endurance to remain fully in the game the entire four sets.
"We didn't play perfect volleyball, but our fight was really good coming back from yesterday's long match," he said. "I was really proud that we could, with such a short turnaround, come back and play hard again."
Brandon extended their lead late in the second set, but the Herd crept back, tying the set at 21. Deep in the second, Majewski made a crucial attack (24-23) which pushed the visitors within set point. An out-of-bounds attack by the Bisons drove the Bobcats to set win at 25-23.
A five-point surge late in the first set from the Herd propelled them to the lead and they continued to push from there, making it 22-17 before long. A massive Studler kill moved the score to 24-19, and a block by Kelsey Jordan cemented the Manitoba set win (25-19).
Brandon's head coach Lee Carter knows the key to their success moving into the latter half of the season is to just keep getting better.
"We're right there and now we just have to make those two or three corrections so that the game is ours rather than making the errors at a crucial time when the other team builds momentum," he said.
After the break, Manitoba will host the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack on Jan. 4-5. Brandon will stay at home and face Trinity Western on Jan. 4 at 6:00 p.m. CST. You can both matchups live online at CanadaWest.TV.