Brandon University Bobcats starting setter Kellie Baker is back for her fifth and final season with the club. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Kellie Baker is heading into her fifth and final year with the Brandon University Bobcats women’s volleyball team, and there’s nothing she’d like more than to end her university career with a long playoff run.
Since the team made its debut in the Canada West conference in the 2005-06 season, the Bobcats have never made it beyond the first round of the Canada West playoffs. The team has also missed the post-season each season since Baker took over as starting setter two years ago.
The 22-year-old Crocus Plains high school graduate has been so focused on putting an end to that playoff trend that she’s come into camp in the best shape of her life and will do anything she can to get them there.
"I think I’m in better shape than I have been in the past two or three years, which is good because I need to be," Baker said.
"I’m going to keep going from there and see if I can build on that some more. But other than that, I think I think more about the mental prep and about the best situation for my hitter to score rather than just setting a person any more. It’s more of a mental game now than anything else."
Baker’s growth in understanding the game is what Bobcats head coach Lee Carter is most impressed with.
The conversations between Carter and his 5-foot-10 setter have changed a lot over the years. When Baker first came to BU, they were one-sided with Carter trying to instill his system and setting options into her head. Now they’ve become more like conversations without one side being more dominant than the other.
Carter believes that Baker has the opportunity to become a great coach one day, and loves having her on the court to run the offence.
"There’s other athletes that get things done, but to have the player who sees it and understands it and then when you talk about it in the middle of the game, a light switch goes on and that makes sense, it’s awesome," Carter said. "I can’t say enough great things about Kellie Baker."
Baker, who will be the floor captain for the second straight year, credits her development in the mental part of the game to teaching some of the local club teams during her off-seasons.
While she feels ready for the upcoming season, she also believes her teammates are ready as well. They won their first tournament of the pre-season last weekend in Winnipeg and she thinks they will be a tough team to play this season.
Baker, who finished eighth in the conference with 8.50 assists per set last year, feels everything is shaping up well for a solid season for the Bobcats, and she’s anxious to start her final year when the Bobcats host the Regina Cougars on Oct. 25.
"So excited," Baker said. "The first tournament was super exciting because that’s the first time we’ve played against somebody other than our teammates, so it’s interesting to see where we stack up against those other teams. I can’t wait for the actual season to start so we can start performing to the best of our abilities."
CAT SCRAPS: The BU women’s basketball team is hosting a tournament at the Healthy Living Centre this weekend. They start by hosting the Red River College Rebels on Friday at 8 p.m. On Saturday they play the University of Winnipeg Wesmen at 8 p.m., and will take on the Lakeland College Rustlers on Sunday at 1 p.m. … The BU men’s basketball team is off to Thunder Bay, Ont., for a pair of exhibition games against the Lakehead Thunderwolves on Friday and Saturday … Both volleyball teams are idle this weekend.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 3, 2013