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Duckworth Challenge - Women's Basketball

From the sidelines

Four Bisons coaches and their perspectives of the Duckworth Challenge

January 29, 2016 — 

Considering the 25-year history, the Duckworth Challenge highlights the rivalry between the University of Manitoba Bisons and the University of Winnipeg Wesmen. The winter tournament between both men’s and women’s volleyball and basketball teams is an annual tradition.

Garth Pischke has been coaching Bisons men’s volleyball since the beginning of the Duckworth Challenge. As the coach of the team for the past 34 years, he offers an authoritative view of the tournament.

“It is a great event with a great history, ” says Pischke. “We have a great rivalry with (the University of) Winnipeg. The matches are always intense and competitive regardless of what the teams’ rankings are.”

Pischke says this competitiveness between the Bisons and the Wesmen has remained consistent since the beginning.

Ken Bentley agrees. He’s been coaching the Bisons women’s volleyball team for 30 years. His veritable look at the 25-year-old tournament provides some additional insight.

“By far the biggest change is the fact that we don’t play each other nearly as much as we used to,” says Bentley. “While the rivalry has always been there it certainly isn’t as intense as it used to be. Back when it started we would play Winnipeg 10-15 times a year, and that can cause some hard feelings after awhile. Now that we are in Canada West and the league is so big we only play each other a handful of times at best.”

Regardless, the tournament itself has grown and is something fans look forward.

“There is more interest. It is a match that people come out to more often these days and that is a good thing for our schools and the sports involved in the Duckworth,” says Bentley. “Our student body, particularly our residences come out in full force and they create an awesome environment. Especially the Big Horns – they are an amazing cast of characters. And I have to give a shout out to engineering (students) as well. When they show up it is a whole new ball game.”

Kirby Schepp has been the head coach of the Bisons men’s basketball team for seven years. His history with the Duckworth Challenge dates back to 1993, playing for the Wesmen from 1993-96 and coaching the team after. Seeing the tournament from both sides, Schepp’s perspective echoes the rivalry between the two Winnipeg universities even louder.

“It gives me more perspective in terms of the big picture of the game. It draws out a wider basketball audience from the community which is great for CIS game but also basketball in general in the province.” Schepp adds, “We had a lot of tough battles with the Bisons back then. I think we are a stronger team but those games always seemed to narrow the margin between the two programs.”

The history of the Duckworth Challenge continues to evolve. Attesting to this is Michele Hynes, who played on the Bisons women’s basketball team for five years and has been the head coach for the past two. She says the competition between the Bisons and the Wesmen has only grown healthier.

“Duckworth Challenge was always the best & loudest games of the year,” says Hynes. “Positive rivalries are one of the best features of university and college sports so it’s nice to give players that experience. It’s always a great test for athletes to play in an intense environment.”

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