BY DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
A misstep here, a controversial call there, and the Winnipeg Wesmen were on the wrong side of a straight-sets decision Saturday in a semifinal of the Wesmen Classic.
The U of W men's volleyball team hung tough in three tight sets but ultimately suffered a 3-0 (25-23, 25-25-22, 25-22) loss to the Brandon Bobcats, a setback that will keep them out of the championship of the first ever Classic volleyball tournament.
Wesmen head coach Larry McKay loudly voiced his frustration with a controversial no-touch call on a Wesmen swing late in the second set that gave Brandon some breathing room on the scoreboard in the final points of the set.
McKay, however, said his team shouldn't have been in that situation in the first place.
"We put ourselves in that situation where we needed a fortunate call or a couple of fortunate calls to go our way, and some of those will and some of those won't," he said.
McKay acknowledged noon matches have been less than stellar for his team, with Friday's loss to Manitoba also a mid-day first serve.
"If you put it on a graph, I think you'd see the noon-hour matches we struggled," he said. "Brandon's a good team but we were really fighting with ourselves today just as we were against Manitoba. Fortunately in the (Canada West) league we don't play noon-hour matches because we're setting a precedent here for not doing so well during that time."
The Bobcats beat the Wesmen for the second time in the past three matches and did so by winning critical points late in sets.
"I thought in the second half of that (first) set we started passing really well and once we did that we kind of got our middles going and then it opened up things on the outside for us," head coach Grant Wilson said. "For us it always comes back to the first touch. We feel like if we serve well and pass well we give ourselves a chance to compete and succeed."
The Wesmen will have a rematch with the Manitoba Bisons in the third-place match after U of M dropped a 3-1 (26-24, 23-25, 25-23, 25-23) decision to the Laval Rouge et Or, who have yet to lose a match this tournament.
"(At this time of year) teams miss here and there," Laval head coach Pascal Clement said. "But in February and March, guys miss less, so I think we have to be more sharp. But other than that I'm very pleased with the performance and most happy to be in the finals."
On the B-side, the Regina Cougars won their second straight match by beating the Western Mustangs 3-2 (25-22, 22-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-9) in a fifth-place semifinal, while the Ryerson Rams knocked off the UNB Varsity Reds 3-1 (18-25, 26-24, 25-19, 29-27) in the other semi.