DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
Having already logged three matches in two days — and three wins — Phil Hudson felt it was about time to get a bit more variety going in his lineup at the Unruh Realty Challenge.
The interim head coach of the Winnipeg Wesmen women's volleyball team threw out a brand-new lineup of young players and those getting their first action of their university careers Saturday in a 3-0 (27-25, 25-16, 26-24) setback to the Manitoba Bisons in the final round-robin match of the tournament for both teams.
The Wesmen, who defeated Regina earlier in the day 3-1 (23-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-22), finished 3-1 while Manitoba went 4-0 and the two teams will face each other Sunday at noon in the 1-2 match to close out the weekend.
The Wesmen dressed regular starting left side Ashleigh Laube at libero for the first two sets before moving Felixe Sturk-Lussier from left side to the defensive specialist position in the third. Back-up setter Mikaela Cameron played all three sets, freshman Alexa Wieczorkiewicz got her first full action of the weekend, as did back-up Emily Yaeger, who is returning to the team after taking 2018-19 off.
"I was really proud of everybody that hadn't played that much this weekend got on the court and did a really good job," Hudson said. "Some were playing out of their normal positions just to make sure that we had a chance to play everybody. The first and third sets were really close and we had chances to win both of them but just gave a couple of untimely errors at the end. Playing against a good team — they're one of the top teams in Canada — we have to be pretty proud of what we did."
Left side Taylor Kleysen has caught Hudson's eye with her progression through pre-season training and made an impression on Saturday, hitting a team-high 11 kills.
"I think it's been really positive in practice and Phil's a really big part of that, but also just having such a deep bench has made everyone work really hard in practice, so I think that's really pushed me in practice," Kleysen said. "It's been nice in pre-season to have an opportunity to go and prove yourself, so every game's a battle and I think that makes everyone work a little harder and makes me want to be better when I'm out there."
Yaeger finished with eight kills, Sturk-Lussier had a team-high 14 digs and middle blocker Jess Friesen, one of the few starters who saw the floor, had three aces — including back-to-back in the third set when the Wesmen rallied to tie the set at 24.
The young Wesmen side will get another shot as a U of W split-squad will play Lakehead in a fifth-place match at 10 a.m. Sunday. Brandon and Regina will play for third place, also at 10 a.m.