WINNIPEG, MB - The Manitoba Bisons snapped an 11-game UBC Okanagan winning streak and secured a Canada West playoff spot in women’s volleyball.
Manitoba finishes the year with a 12-12 record, while the U SPORTS number one Heat finished the year with a 19-5 record.
UBC Okanagan jumped out to a 9-5 lead in the first set, forcing Bison head coach Ken Bentley to call a timeout. This didn’t appear to stop the damage, as the Heat continued their torrid pace. The Heat led by 10 points at the technical timeout after a serving run of seven points from Michelle Jakszuk. A service run from Bison left side hitter Ayiya Ottogo made it close in the end, but Siobhan Fitzpatrick smacked home the set winning kill.
“It was a pretty poor start,” Bentley said. “We just hung in there and kept fighting, we just started to play better, hey this is a tough team to play against. The margin for error is very slim, but I’m really pleased with the level of play we rose to.”
In the second set, carrying momentum from the first, Manitoba came out with an 8-4 lead. The home side held the lead to the technical timeout with some kills from middle Jocelyn Koswin. The top-ranked Heat were not going to roll over and die, as the set went longer but Manitoba managed to win 29-27. With that set victory the Bisons secured a playoff berth.
After starting the match slow, Bison Kearley Abbott picked up steam in the fourth set, earning some key kills to give Manitoba a 16-11 lead. Abbott got the set winning kill after powering through the kill to give the Bisons a 25-18 set win. Koswin and Abbott both had five kills in the third set.
With Manitoba taking the lead early in each of the last two sets, the fourth set was much tighter with each team exchanging points. On a serving run from Laura Findlay, the Bisons pulled away, leading 16-11 at the technical timeout. Emily Erickson ended the night with a block to pull off the upset.
Brittany Habing was all over the court for the Bisons, finishing with 43 assists, five kills, 13 digs, and four blocks.
“It’s bittersweet to play the last game on this court obviously these years have meant a lot to me,” she said.
“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet exactly the feeling of not every playing here again but it was super cool the team kind of just stepped up and said ‘it’s your senior night we’re going to do this for you’ so that was really cool.”
Manitoba and UBC Okanagan will resume niceties in the first round Canada West playoffs on Feb. 23-25 in Kelowna, B.C.
Ryan Stelter, University of Manitoba Bisons