WINNIPEG — It’s almost hard to believe it took this long but Manitoba Bisons head coach Garth Pischke is the Canada West Men’s Volleyball Coach Of The Year for the first time.
Pischke is in his 35th season as the Bisons’ head coach. He won the coach of the year award numerous times when the Bisons competed in the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC), but it’s the first coach of the year award for Pischke in Canada West. The two conferences merged in 2000.
Pischke, 61, has over 1,300 career victories. In his 35 years at the helm the Bisons have qualified for the national championship 27 times.
“Garth’s selection as the Canada West Men’s Volleyball Coach of the Year is fantastic news for Bison Sports,” said Bisons director of athletics Gene Muller through a media release. “His record is unparalleled in university volleyball and he continues to drive the success of our program.”
Also on Tuesday Bisons fifth year middle Ken Rooney was named the winner of the Student-Athlete Community Service Award. The 22-year-old Rooney is just the second Bison to win the honour following in the footsteps of Dane Pischke who won in 2013.
“Ken is a fantastic role model for all of our student-athletes,” said Pischke. “He has taken on a leadership role both on and off the court and is always involved in some form of giving back. He has been one of my favourite athletes to coach over my career and his incredible work ethic is truly inspiring.”
Rooney will now be the Canada West nominee for the U Sports Dale Iwanoczko Award for outstanding student athlete.
Rooney and the Bisons already have a berth in this year’s national championship but will host the Canada West Final Four this weekend. The Bisons will face the UBC Thunderbirds in the semifinals on Friday.
“UBC is a very talented team,” said Pischke. “Even though we did win both those matches earlier on in the season, they were both at home, which we like playing at home for sure. But I’m just recalling one of those matches went five sets and we were down 14-11 in the fifth set. So we really showed some perseverance to hang around and give ourselves a chance to win and the result could have been very different.”
WATCH: Garth Pischke on facing UBC in the Canada West Final Four
The Bisons women’s team also hauled in some hardware. First year outside hitter Kearley Abbott was selected as the Canada West Women’s Volleyball Rookie Of The Year. The 18-year-old was eighth in the conference in points after making the transition from St. Mary’s Academy.
“I remember the first couple weeks, it was pretty challenging.” Abbott said. “I just remember swinging as hard as I could and I just couldn’t get any points for the first couple of weeks. So the first couple of weeks were pretty shocking but then after the pre-season, I think that got me pretty adjusted to how I needed to play. So the jump wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.”
Abbott is only the third member of the Bisons to win this award after Ashley Voth (2007) and Samantha Loewen (2008).
WATCH: Kearley Abbott on first year in Canada West