The Western Mustangs came close to sealing the first upset of the national men’s volleyball championship on Friday, but the University of Manitoba Bisons beat them in quarter-final play at the ARC.
After the teams split the first four sets, the Bisons won the fifth set in a 19-17 tiebreak to set up a semifinal with the Laval Rouge et Or on Saturday night.
Bisons’ head coach Garth Pischke — at his 26th national tournament with the team — said his second-seeded team underestimated the seventh-seed Mustangs.
“We knew they were good but they were just so relentless,” Pischke said. “They took our offence off its game, and we were frustrated.”
That frustration showed late in the fourth set, when Bisons’ outside hitter Dane Pischke — the coach’s son — received a yellow card for contesting a refereeing decision.
But coach Pischke said the yellow card settled his team down.
“After the yellow card we kept our mouths shut and learned from our mistakes,” he said. “The players really kept composure in the last set.”
Dane Pischke led the Bisons with 17 kills and 10 digs while Western’s outside hitter Garrett May countered with 26 kills and 11 digs. In the fourth set, Mustangs’ outside hitter Mathieu Poulin recorded back-to-back kills to send the game to five sets.
The fifth set was a microcosm of the match. The Bisons went ahead 8-5 before the Mustangs tied it at 10. With the Bisons vying for match point at 14-12, the Mustangs fought back to tie it.
The teams traded points until 17-17 when the Mustangs’ spike missed by inches. The Bisons won the match on the next point.
After the game, Dane Pischke said the game might as well have been decided by a coin toss.
“That was a nervous first game at nationals for our group of guys,” he said. “A slow start, but now we’ve got it out of the way.
“We played our best near the end of the match,” he said. “We’re going to carry that with us for the rest of the tournament.”
On Saturday, Manitoba takes on Laval in a national semifinal at 6 p.m. Meanwhile, Western plays the Calgary Dinos in a consolation match at 1 p.m.
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