Brandon Bobcat Shanlee McLennan hammers the ball past Regina Cougar Leah Shevkenek on Friday night. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Brandon’s Kellie Baker battles Regina’s Molly Wade-Cummings at the net Friday at the Healthy Living Centre. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
The Brandon University Bobcats women’s volleyball team was hoping to showcase consistency this Canada West season, but they ended up needing resiliency to win their regular season opener over the University of Regina Cougars.
Brandon, ranked fifth in the country, showed flashes of dominance, struggled in the even sets, but came back in the fifth to beat the Cougars 3-2 (25-19, 21-25, 25-20, 21-25, 15-10) Friday night at the Healthy Living Centre.
"When we’re confident we play really well and we just have to trust our skills," Bobcats head coach Lee Carter said. "The hardest part is overcoming the mental side of the game and when we get doubt we struggle and we have to find a way to maintain our confidence."
The Bobcats opened the match by taking advantage of three straight Cougar errors and never gave up the lead as they cruised through the first set. However, Brandon struggled late in the second and that resulted in Carter replacing left side Gillian Leech and middle Jodie Baker with New Zealand import Vaovai Aiono and Meaghan Robertson, respectively.
That faster lineup appeared to have the answer for the Cougars in the third set, but Regina’s defence and eight Bobcat attack errors — as well as a serving and reception error — stifled the Bobcats in the fourth.
The fifth set was a back-and-forth affair that Regina led 8-6 at the turn. Brandon fought back and took control with a kill by Shanlee McLennan and an ace from Kellie Baker to give BU an 11-9 edge and they dominated after that.
"It was good for us to be down at the turn and come back," McLennan said. "Everyone still had their heads up and we fought for it, so it was good to see that."
McLennan led Brandon with 16 kills and 14 digs. Libero Donata Huebert, playing her first match for the Bobcats since being named the CIS libero of the year three seasons ago, also had 14 digs.
Victoria Dakin added 13 kills and six blocks, while Lexi Loewen had 10 kills and six blocks for the Bobcats. Aiono, making her Canada West debut, had eight kills, including the match winner.
Desiree Ates had 20 kills for Regina, but only posted a .111 attack percentage for the CIS championship hosts. Michelle Sweeting added 16 kills for the Cougars, who had five players record at least 10 digs in the match.
While the Bobcats were happy to win their opener, they hope today’s rematch at 5 p.m. will go a lot smoother.
"Hopefully we can do it in three (sets)," McLennan said, "but it’s a good first win. We played well as a team and I think everyone contributed to that game and we all played really well together. It was good."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 26, 2013