DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
The Winnipeg Wesmen are being granted one more chance to wipe the taste from their mouth of last week's disappointment, and it just so happens a berth in nationals comes along with it.
The Wesmen, who were beat by the Trinity Western Spartans in two straight matches in last week's Canada West conference semifinal series, will play a do-or-die single match against the UBC Thunderbirds in Vancouver with the conference bronze medal on the line, as well as Canada West's final berth into the eight-team dance that starts next week in Hamilton, Ont.
The Wesmen are well aware their best volleyball was not on display last week in Langley, B.C., and this one-and-done bronze-medal showdown gives them a chance at a level of redemption.
"I think we're ready to prove that last week is not how we play," right side Adrian Dyck said. "I think we're ready to show that we can play better and there's a big challenge ahead of us, but I think we can do it. I think that's where we're at: We know we want to get it done."
The challenge is real, however. Up next is the No. 3-ranked UBC Thunderbirds, who lost their semifinal series to Alberta last weekend and will have a home-court advantage as they try to capture their second straight Canada West bronze.
"I think they possibly could even have more than Trinity in terms of skill, it's just whether or not they're playing as a team on any given night," Dyck said. "I think it'll be a good challenge."
Dyck, the third-year product of Springs Christian Academy, has led the Wesmen in kills in each of the past five matches, and has continued to solidify himself as a reliable weapon in the Winnipeg attack.
"I feel like I've picked it up a lot the last little bit and I think that's what our team needs from all of us, not just me," he said. "I hope that can kinda rub off on everyone else and we can pick it up in the big moments."
This year's playoff format diverges from the past when a conference final four determined who was in and who was out of nationals. Now it sets up for single matches in Langley (TWU-Alberta for gold) and Vancouver to determine the final slotting in the conference.
Dyck likes the one-shot format.
"I think that plays to our advantage," he said of the possibility of pulling one upset to keep their season alive. "I know we like the adversity of coming back from a deficit, but we know we've got to come out and fight the whole time as though we're down.
"It's really exciting. I love playing in those moments."
First serve is slated for 9 p.m. CT and can be streamed on canadawest.tv