Head coach Grant Wilson’s five month wait to get back on the court with the Brandon University Bobcats will finally come to an end on Tuesday.
Ever since the Bobcats men’s volleyball team lost its Canadian Interuniversity Sport semifinal to the Laval Rouge et Or in Quebec City in March, Wilson has been anxious to complete the unfinished business from last year. They go back to work on Tuesday with their first day of training camp at the Healthy Living Centre, and Wilson feels the team — which is coming off a national bronze medal and its first Canada West conference title — has a good chance to return to the national scene.
All of the players, with the exception of three — setter Garrett Popplestone, libero/left side Scott Neufeld and left side Craig Lowe — are back this season and there should be some good competition for the open setter and passing left side starting spots.
“I think both of those positions are pretty important to the team’s success,” Wilson said. “With that said, I think we have quite a few people who are going to push. Things will unfold in the course of time, but I expect to see daily battles in practice and see what comes of it.”
The BU women’s volleyball team also seems to be in good shape for the season. They are returning nine of the 14 players on their roster from last year and have recruited three key import players in former CIS libero of the year Donata Huebert from Germany, as well as New Zealand left sides Vaovai Aiono and Margaret Lafaele, who are still awaiting student visas before they can join the team.
Huebert, who played professional volleyball last season in Europe, will greatly improve the Bobcats’ defence, while the Kiwis are expected to compete to start on the outside. Meanwhile, Mary Thomson, Jodie Baker and Shanlee McLennan earned top-level experience competing in the Canada Summer Games, while the team’s dedication to off-season training programs has head coach Lee Carter looking forward to the first day of training camp on Tuesday.
“I’m pretty excited with the direction we’re heading and the competition that we’re going to have for starting spots,” he said. “Not until we see everyone in the gym will we know how successful (of an off-season) it really was.”
Carter knows that creating solid teamwork will be key for his squad with five new faces coming in, but it will likely be the most important part of the Bobcats women’s basketball team’s training camp.
That Bobcat squad lost eight players this off-season, including their top three scorers from last season in Carrera Lamoureux, Aimee Johnston and Chantel Gaslard. The trio combined for 19.7 points per game for a team that averaged only 42.1.
Head coach Novell Thomas added eight new faces to the roster, including a pair of potential impact players in guards Aleah Bridges and Cassie Cooke. Cooke is a former all-Canadian and Bridges, an American, redshirted in the second half of last season.
Thomas also added Russell Luce as a strength and conditioning coach, and has implemented a solid off-season training program for both the returning players and new local recruits — Keegan Robinson, Kinsley Ransom and Stephanie Hunter — who stuck around Brandon during the summer.
“I’m very impressed with Ambrea (McDonald-Okoro) and Stephanie (Haynes) and Kaela (Cranston) and Jaynell (Gillett), those who are returning and how hard they have been training,” Thomas said. “Appearance wise you can see they’re different. Physically they’re way more explosive, so I’m very excited about how dedicated they’ve been this off-season to training. With that, our first-year players coming in see this and understand it’s quite a bit of a difference from high school.”
Meanwhile, the Bobcats men’s basketball team has been on the court since Monday. The team lost only two players, neither of whom averaged more than 7.7 minutes of playing time per game, which head coach Gil Cheung believes has led to his easiest training camp as everyone understands the systems, terminology and how each other plays.
“It makes our practices that much more competitive and the language and communication is where we would be in November and it’s only August,” he said. “I think the terminology and the basketball philosophy we have at both ends of the court is something that these guys have experienced already and it’s already transferring over.”
BU’s men’s basketball team faces its first test of the pre-season tonight when they host the Minot State University Beavers at the HLC at 7 o’clock.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 30, 2013