Thursday was a complete roller coaster for the Manitoba Bisons men’s volleyball team who were supposed to host nationals for the first time in over 40 years.
First, it appeared the event would go on despite the COVID-19 pandemic. It was announced in the afternoon they would play without fans. But late Thursday night, the difficult decision was made to cancel it entirely.
The planning was done, the teams were there, and despite an expected sellout for opening night, the gym will remain empty.
“It happened so fast,” head coach Garth Pischke said. “The roller coaster of emotions was absolutely crazy.”
For the first time in the 54-year history of the tournament, there’ll be no university men’s volleyball champion.
With the decision coming down late, most players discovered the bad news online.
“Very tough to see,” Pischke said. “And really no words can help the situation.”
After months of planning, all the signs, programs and t-shirts will never see the light of day.
A tough way to end a season, or even a career in the case of Pischke. After 38 seasons guiding the Herd, Pischke is retiring. And the 64-year-old won’t even get a proper sendoff. He ran their bench for nearly 1,800 games but won’t get his last game as head coach.
“It’s not gonna sink in for a while,” he said. “I think I’ve probably seen it all, but I guess I haven’t. It’s unfortunate for sure, but I’m not concerned about myself really. I thought this was a great opportunity for our players.”
Nationals can be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and Pischke’s squad had been gearing up for this weekend all season long.
“We’ve known from the first day of camp that they were going to be here,” Pischke said. “It’s been in the back of their minds and they’ve prepared all season for this.
“To have it disappear so quickly is a painful pill for them.”
Pischke is retiring from the Bisons, but he still has a little coaching left in his blood. He hopes to be coaching his daughter, Taylor, in beach volleyball at the Summer Olympic Games.