DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
The Winnipeg Wesmen men's volleyball team rose to the Challenge Friday night.
With a winner-take-all situation set up for the Duckworth Challenge title, the Wesmen pulled off a 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 29-27) Canada West conference victory over the Manitoba Bisons at the Duckworth Centre.
The win gave the Wesmen a come-from-behind win in the annual Duckworth Challenge — the aggregate derby between the two schools — and kept the trophy at the downtown campus for the third straight year.
The men's team knew going in that the Challenge would be decided by the winner of the men's match after the Wesmen women pulled off a sweep earlier in the night.
Winnipeg took the 2019-20 title with three wins to Manitoba's two.
"Any time you play U of M it's exciting," Wesmen head coach Larry McKay said.
"I think our defence was good and I think our overall team play was good."
The Wesmen hit a season-high .315 for the night and Daniel Thiessen had his second double-double of the season with 12 kills and 11 digs while hitting .360.
Setters Mikael Clegg and Jack Mandryk were named the game MVPs.
It was the first time since 2005-06 that both the men's and women's teams had beaten Manitoba in the same season.
"It was very obvious in mind: Winnipeg's defence was very good and they kept a lot of rallies going, and their blocking was very good, too," Manitoba head coach Garth Pischke said. "Every one of their guys contributed in the back row and they dug a lot of balls and that just kept putting more and more pressure on us to side out."
The Wesmen didn't pull off the win without some late-match theatrics. Winnipeg trailed 20-17 in the third and eventually pulled even at 20-20. That, however, was followed by back-to-back points for the Bisons, who would stretch their lead to 24-21. Winnipeg, however, got two kills from Thiessen, another from Kristjanson, and evened the match at 24.
Thiessen finished the match with back-to-back kills at 27-all.
Kevin Negus led the Bisons (2-7) with 14 kills and Owen Schwartz had a team-high nine digs.