Manitoba Bisons score 5-set, upset win at university women’s volleyball nationals

The Manitoba Bisons are one step closer to their first Canadian university women’s volleyball national championship in nine years.

The sixth-seeded Bisons earned a comeback, upset victory the No. 3 Mount Royal Cougars 3-2 (24-26, 25-20, 16-25, 25-22, 15-10) in the last of four quarter-final matches at the U Sports national championship in Vancouver on Friday.

Including the Canada West conference playoffs, Manitoba had been 0-4 against the Cougars this season, winning just three sets.

Outside hitter Raya Surinx, the nation’s top rookie this season, set a new career-high with eight aces to go along with a team-high 21 kills and 10 digs in helping the Bisons advance to the national semifinals.

Fellow outside hitter Ella Gray, who grew up in nearby Surrey, B.C., chipped in with 14 kills and 10 digs, while setter Katreena Bentley recorded 42 assists and 12 digs in Manitoba’s first match at nationals since 2014 in Regina.

A player eyes up the volleyball.
Katreena Bentley of the Manitoba Bisons sets the ball during a U Sports women’s volleyball quarter-final match against the Mount Royal Cougars at War Memorial Gym in Vancouver on Friday. (Submitted by Rich Lam/UBC Athletics)

That year, Manitoba knocked off the British Columbia Thunderbirds, which had won six consecutive national titles, in straight sets in the championship match. The Bisons and No. 7 Thunderbirds will square off Saturday night in another meeting between Canada West foes at nationals, with the winner advancing to the title match on Sunday.

The Bisons swept a best-of-three conference quarter-final series over the Thunderbirds in late February in Vancouver.

The other semifinal features the defending champion and No. 1 Trinity Western Spartans battling the No. 5 Dalhousie Tigers — coached by Rick Scott of Souris, Man.

The Bisons are seeking their eighth national championship, while the Thunderbirds are aiming to add to their record 12 titles. In addition to last year’s gold-medal performance, the Spartans also won in 2015. 

The only time Dalhousie won a national title was in 1982.