Gil Cheung and the Bobcat men's basketball team plays in the Wesmen Classic next week.
In one week, the Brandon University Bobcats will be in Laval, Que., and they hope it won't be the only trip they make there this season.
The women's volleyball team will get a stiff test in its holiday action when the Bobcats play five matches in three days at the Rouge et Or tournament that starts next Tuesday. They will see the No. 3-ranked hosts, whom they play twice, as well as the Montreal Carabins, the team they are tied with at fifth in the national rankings, and the Queen's Golden Gaels, who are 6-1 in the OUA's East Division.
Brandon will also play one of the country's premier college programs, Quebec City's FX Garneau, in a match that will likely feature BU's younger players.
So while the tournament will give Brandon a unique chance to play quality non-conference matches, head coach Lee Carter says it will also be a good chance for his players to get acclimated to a city he hopes they're visiting in March for the national championship tournament.
"(Laval) is one of the most Francophone cities in Canada and there's not a lot of English so ... being able to converse or struggle through a bit of a language barrier will remove some of that panic when we arrive at nationals," Carter said. "Also just being comfortable with the facility. ... We're gonna play on the Sport Court and we're going to do things that we don't normally get to do in our league. So we're hoping that will give us a comfort and I hope it sets the image that, hey, we can be here."
Carter wouldn't put too much stock into the Rouge et Or tournament, stressing that it was still important for his younger players to get the playing time they aren't always able to get in conference play.
"Obviously you want to go out there and win but, in saying that, we still need to get some young kids into games and situations in exhibition that we might need during our playoff run or our national run," he said. "You need to get some people confident in case of injury or something happens where we need to replace somebody for a short period of time."
The only other BU team getting games in before 2011 is the men's basketball team, which will head to the 44th Wesmen Classic in Winnipeg next Tuesday. The Bobcats draw the Lakehead Thunderwolves to open the eight-team tournament.
"I think they're a tough match-up. They made the national tournament last year and they're very well coached," Bobcats head coach Gil Cheung said. "They're one of the more athletic teams in the country, they'll get up and pressure you. Defence is big for them and we're gonna see 40 minutes of full-court man-to-man and zone pressure."
At 4-6 in the Canada West conference, the Bobcats still have visions of making the post-season, currently sitting in the eighth and final playoff spot with a tough home weekend against No. 3-ranked Saskatchewan starting the second semester.
"The biggest thing is it brings everyone back together, it gets them all on the same page," Cheung said. "I think it's huge for a lot of our players that aren't from the Westman area that they get to go home, relax, not think about school or basketball and enjoy the holidays with family and friends. As soon as they get back here it's right back to work."
Brandon's men's volleyball team will participate in Saskatchewan's Brian Mallard Tournament on Jan. 6-8.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 22, 2010 B2