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Bisonette Volleyball, 1971.

Bisonette Volleyball, 1971. Photo originally appeared in the university's staff and faculty news paper,The Bulletin.

The first spike: ‘Bisonettes’ claimed first women’s national volleyball championship

January 16, 2015 — 

Excerpt from the story by Melissa Martin in the Winnipeg Free Press: For a few bright minutes they mingled on the court, separated by more than 40 years but matching in heart, all Bisons women’s volleyball champions in their day.

At the centre of it all were three emissaries from the 1970-71 team that made Canadian history.

They were the first, you see. The first of seven Bisons women’s volleyball teams to win nationals, the first University of Manitoba women’s team in any sport to accomplish such a feat. And on a brisk Saturday in early March, 1971, that spunky young squad claimed the country’s first official national women’s volleyball crown.

On Wednesday, three alumnae from that ground-breaking team gathered at Investors Group Athletic Centre to meet this season’s reigning CIS champions. It was the middle of a key practice for the Bisons as they prepared to host the daunting Alberta Golden Bears this weekend. But when Joan Chaput, Sharon Martin and Donna Dawson walked in to take some photos, the young athletes paused to meet the women who had walked their path before.

In other ways, the Bisons women’s program has come a long way in 44 years. Back then, there was no recruitment and no scholarships either … there wasn’t much of a fitness plan for the “Bisonettes” in 1971. There were stairs in the drafty old fieldhouse where they played, so that’s how they trained. That old fieldhouse was later demolished and a parkade and nursing classrooms went up in its place. But Sharon Martin can still picture those stairs.

“We ran the stairs, up and down,” Martin recalled, chatting over coffee a few days after Christmas. “Jumped them. There wasn’t a program set up for you, to do on your own. It was basically, you showed up for practice, and that’s where you did everything.”

They were a young team in the winter of 1970-71, many of them phys-ed students freshly moved up from the Bisonettes’ junior squad. A slew of older players graduated at the end of the previous season, so there were holes to be filled. But what they lacked in experience they made up in hustle, Martin and Dawson agreed, and a stout defence. They worked hard on that during their Monday night games, building lots of motion into the back court.

Eventually, that work took them all the way to that first official Canadian title.

Read the rest of the WFP story here.


The U of M Bison Women’s Volleyball team won the national Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships on Sunday, March 2 at the University of Regina, with three set sweep (25-22, 25-22, 25-20) over defending and six-time champion UBC Thunderbirds.

With the championship win, the Bisons earned their seventh CIS championship in the program’s history and first since the 2001-02 season. The other times Manitoba have won a CIS Championship: 1970-71, 1989-90, 1990-91, 1991-92, 2000-01, 2001-02.

See full UM Today story here.


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