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Wesmen battle back to beat Bisons, bring Duckworth Challenge back downtown

Wesmen libero Darian Picklyk, right, and teammate Austin Anderson celebrate a big block for a point during the first set of the Wesmen men's volleyball team's win over the Manitoba Bisons Friday, February 1, 2019. (David Larkins/Wesmen Athletics)
Wesmen libero Darian Picklyk, right, and teammate Austin Anderson celebrate a big block for a point during the first set of the Wesmen men's volleyball team's win over the Manitoba Bisons Friday, February 1, 2019. (David Larkins/Wesmen Athletics)

DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics

Needing desperately to conjure up something to keep their season alive, the Winnipeg Wesmen men's volleyball team found a rally at just the right time. 

The Wesmen went on a key fourth-set run in which they scored seven out of nine points to wipe out a three-point deficit and help propel them to a come-from-behind 3-2 (25-20, 17-25, 22-25, 25-23, 15-12) victory over the Manitoba Bisons in a Canada West conference match Friday at the Investors Group Athletic Centre. 

The Wesmen trailed 17-15 in the fourth when head coach Larry McKay took a timeout. Winnipeg responded by winning three straight points and, after Manitoba tied the set at 18, the Wesmen ran off four of the next five points to take a 22-19 lead and control of the set. 

In the fifth, Winnipeg jumped out early winning three of the first four and five of the first seven points before holding off a modest Manitoba surge that got the set to 13-12 Winnipeg. McKay took another time out to cool things off and the Wesmen got kills from fifth-year senior Garrett Jones and Adrian Dyck to finish the match. 

The win, coupled with women's and men's basketball victories the night before, secured the Duckworth Challenge title for UWinnipeg for the second straight year.

Most importantly, it kept U of W's fading playoff hopes alive, moving the Wesmen to 6-11 and two points back of eight-place Manitoba (7-12) and UBC (7-11) for the final playoff position. Winnipeg has matches in hand on both of those teams, with a return match Saturday at the Duckworth Centre next on tap. Winnipeg will also have a road weekend at UBC and a pair of games at home against Alberta to close the season. 

"We just knew we had to bring it back to how we were doing the first three sets when we were playing well and go back to that," Wesmen player of the game Ethan Duncan said. "(The Bisons) played extremely well. Credit to them. It was tough both ways, we both had to grind for every single point and I feel like we just came out on top."

Duncan had 13 kills and a career-high 13 digs for his second double-double of the season. 

Dyck had a team-high 15 kills, Daniel Thiessen had 12 kills and 12 digs, and Darian Picklyk had a match-high 18 digs. Setter Mikael Clegg was also in double digits for digs with 10 to go along with 43 assists.

Manitoba was led by Kevin Negus' 27 kills, while Dustin Spiring added 14. 

The Wesmen will play their final three matches of the season on home floor, closing conference play Feb. 15-16 against Alberta. 

"(The win) is a good start to this important second half of this second half (of the season)," Duncan said. "We gotta get our weapons behind us and focus on tomorrow."

—#REPTHEW—