DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Wesmen had the Manitoba Bisons on the brink Saturday before the Bisons came storming back.
Kearley Abbott led three Bisons in double figures with 19 kills and the U of M women's volleyball team rallied from a two-set deficit, and a small hole in the fifth set, to post a 3-2 (21-25, 23-25, 25-12, 25-16, 16-14) Canada West conference victory at the Duckworth Centre.
The Wesmen were the aggressors in the first two sets, rebounding after being taken out in three sets a night earlier at the Investors Group Athletic Centre. The Wesmen won seven of the first nine points and took a 16-14 lead into the technical timeout. With the teams tied at 20-20, Winnipeg responded with five of the next six points, four of them coming on two kills apiece from Kalena Schulz and Ashleigh Laube.
"That was a pretty amazing match for us in that we overcame a lot of demons in this match," said Wesmen head coach Diane Scott, who's spoken regularly about her team's ongoing battle with finding the right mental make-up to finish sets and matches out. "It was pretty exhausting emotionally but to come out and hunker down and win the first two sets was great. ... We dug some balls that we couldn't dig before, we served well, we passed well.
"Absolutely disappointing not to win because we played really well."
In the second, the Wesmen built a six-point edge at 24-18 and had to hold the Bisons off to finish the set. Emma Parker eventually found high hands for one of her 15 kills on the night and the Wesmen were in control.
The Bisons, however, found another level in the third, scoring the first six points and seven of the first eight. They led by as many as 14 points in the third and the Wesmen were never able to muster much of a response.
"Winnipeg they played great volleyball today and we had to raise our game otherwise we were outta here in three-zero," Bisons head coach Ken Bentley said. "I was just glad we hung in there long enough to start playing better on our side. We started siding-out better and from that point I think we were just in a better position."
The fourth set was swung early on as well with a four-point Bisons run gapping the lead to 13-7.
The Wesmen hit -.098 and .000 in the third and fourth, respectively, while Manitoba went .150 and .220.
"At some point," Bentley said, "you're done two-zero, you gotta try and win the thing. We were just real steady in how we came back."
Winnipeg held a narrow 8-7 edge at the flop of the fifth set and eventually stretched the lead to 11-9. Manitoba, however, scored four of the next five points to take the lead at 13-12. A Rylie Dickson service error at 14-14 gave the Bisons their second match point and Josise Abbott finished it with a kill.
"We had a lot of swings where — we got lots of free-ball opportunities — and we didn't put the ball away," Scott said. "That for sure cost us because you start to fatigue and over the course of a five-set match that takes some of the fuel out of your tank. We hit too many balls to Position 5 and it was easy for them just to come back and run their offence."
Photo: David Larkins/Wesmen Athletics