Gaels to compete for first-ever national medal in third-place game against Manitoba

Almost 2,000 people crowded into the ARC to watch the Gaels' 3-0 semifinal loss to the Trinity Western Spartans.
Almost 2,000 people crowded into the ARC to watch the Gaels' 3-0 semifinal loss to the Trinity Western Spartans.

The men’s volleyball team is out of contention for a national gold medal after losing 3-0 to the Trinity Western Spartans in Saturday’s semifinal. But Queen’s can still win its first-ever CIS bronze medal against the Manitoba Bisons. The third-place game takes place on Sunday at 1 p.m.

“We’re pretty excited to win the first medal Queen’s has at nationals,” captain Niko Rukavina said. “Manitoba is definitely a beatable team, much more beatable than Trinity, so we’re looking forward.”

Regardless of the outcome, the Gaels have made history — they’re the second Ontario team to make it to the CIS final four since 1998.

The fifth-seeded Gaels are the underdogs going into the match. Manitoba, ranked second in the country for the last eight weeks of the regular season, is the second seed at the CIS championship behind Trinity Western. The Bisons were the only team in Canada to beat the Spartans this year.

The Bisons beat the Western Mustangs in five sets in the quarter-final before losing their semifinal game to the three-seeded Laval Rouge et Or in four sets.

Queen’s head coach Brenda Willis said she expects a competitive game against the Bisons on Sunday.

“Manitoba and Western was such an even match and we match up very well with Western, so I’m assuming we’ll match up well with Manitoba,” she said.

The Gaels upset the fourth-seeded Alberta Golden Bears 3-1 in the first round.

“[Queen’s] had a great match [against Alberta],” Manitoba coach Garth Pischke said. “We’re not going to take anything out of [their game against Trinity Western.] We’re going to prepare for how they played against Alberta.”

Pischke has coached Manitoba for 31 years, competing in 26 national tournaments in that span. But even though the Bisons have won 10 CIS championships, they haven’t made a CIS tournament appearance since 2006.

The Bisons are led by the coaches' sons. Pischke’s son, Dane, is the team’s top scorer with 4.6 points per set, while Chris Voth – assistant coach Lloyd Voth's son – is team captain.

Queen’s has home-court advantage and record-breaking crowds on its side. 1,802 people watched the Gaels play the Golden Bears and 1,994 saw their game against the Spartans.

“It’s a great atmosphere, certainly a benefit to them,” Pischke said.

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