DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
WINNIPEG -- A starter returns to the roster, and a winning streak extends at the expense of another. And suddenly the Winnipeg Wesmen are back to looking like a contender.
Fifth-year senior Taylor Howe returned to the lineup after missing six matches with an injury and notched a team-high 16 kills to lead the No. 7-ranked Wesmen men's volleyball team to a 3-1 (16-25, 25-17, 25-22, 26-24) upset of the No. 3 Alberta Golden Bears Friday night at the Duckworth Centre.
Howe and left side David Bommersbach were injured in the same practice prior to the U of W's Jan. 12 clash with UBC. The Wesmen proceeded to lose their next three matches but came out of the stretch 3-3. They added to their win streak Friday, battling back from 22-19 down in the fourth to win their fourth in a row and snap Alberta's 10-match win streak in the process.
"It was just nice to be back on the floor with the team with this kind of energy and the stakes," said Howe, who was one of five seniors honoured in a pre-match ceremony. "It's fun. Being out for a couple of weeks just reminds me about how much I love volleyball and you want to be with the guys. It's still a great team win and I love how we all contributed."
Bommersbach is still at least a week away from returning, but the Wesmen are rolling right along with a patchwork lineup that has gotten multiple players in the act and helping carry the load.
"With those injuries, we had to change up our dynamics and go a little bit deeper into our team," Howe said. "I had a feeling even when I was out that that was going to make us a better ... we're going to get a couple other guys into that rotation and it's going to make us stronger and deeper."
Both teams came into the match among the top blocking teams in the country. Winnipeg (14-7) had six block assists and five solo blocks, including one by setter Mikael Clegg that ended the match, and Alberta registered four solos and 12 assisted.
After hitting .611 in the first set with just one error, the Bears committed 27 errors in the next three sets and hit .118 the rest of the way.
Winnipeg hit .190 for the match, including a .440 clip in the second set.
Taryq Sani had a match-high 19 kills but took 49 swings. Alex McMullin added 12 kills and Carter McIntyre 10.
The two teams meet again Saturday at 6:45 p.m. at Duckworth Centre.