The awards and accolades are appreciated, but Brandon University Bobcats coach Lee Carter would give it all up in a heartbeat to still be in the hunt for a national championship.
Carter’s Bobcats women’s volleyball team has earned four Canada West conference year-end awards, capping a superb season that ended in disappointment with a first-round playoff upset.
"I would trade it in any day to be still playing this weekend," Carter said. "I think it’s awesome and I feel great, but it also feels a little hollow because the team didn’t have success (in the playoffs)."
Bobcats standout Donata Huebert, a veteran from Germany, was named the CWUAA libero of the year and a first-team all-conference player, while New Zealand import left side Vaovai Aiono of BU was named to the all-rookie team, with Carter earning the nod as coach of the year after guiding Brandon to a 17-5 regular-season record. Meanwhile, Brandon native Lisa Barclay, a fourth-year left side with the No.1-ranked UBC Thunderbirds, was named Canada West’s most valuable player and a first-team all-star.
"I am super excited for Donata, it says a lot for her," said Carter, noting both Huebert and Aiono will now be in consideration for CIS national awards as well. "I didn’t know she was a first-team all-conference player until I read the release. I knew she was going to win the libero of the year, but to be a first-team all-conference player is awesome. … And (Aiono), it’s nice to be on the all-rookie team for Canada West, it’s awesome. … She will go forward with the potential to be on the all-Canadian (rookie) team, too."
Carter guided the Bobcats to their most successful season in the team’s nine-year history and the No.2 ranking in the country. But the promising season ended with a home-court upset at the hands of the UBC Okanagan Heat last weekend at the Healthy Living Centre.
"It was an incredible year. It’s just so funny in sport how one weekend can control so much about the overall feeling," Carter said. "But when you look at everything that happened throughout the year, the team played well, we got along awesome, everybody bought in to everything that we needed to do. So if this is my most successful year since coming to Brandon and coaching in the CIS, I am so proud to be associated with every one of those athletes and coaches."
Huebert, the 2011 CIS libero of the year, finished fifth in the conference with 266 digs (3.64 per set), setting a school record with 35 digs in a Jan. 22 match against the Winnipeg Wesmen. Aiono finished third on the team with 187 kills (2.34 per set), adding 155 digs (1.94 per set) and 43 blocks (0.54 per set).
Meanwhile, Barclay, a Crocus Plains graduate, posted the best season of her CIS career, leading the conference and the country with 4.99 points per set (a combination of kills, blocks and aces). A first-team all-Canadian and two-time reigning national championship tournament MVP, Barclay led the CIS in kills, with 345 (4.26 per set), and was sixth in Canada West in service aces, with 30 (0.37 per set), to lead UBC to a first-place 18-4 record.
"I’m really happy with my play throughout the year; it was a pretty good growing year for me in a lot of aspects," Barclay, a member of Canada’s national senior women’s volleyball team, said from Vancouver. "It was different being one of the older players and one of the more experienced players, but I really liked it … and it was a really good experience."
While the honours are nice, Barclay and the T-Birds remain firmly focused on the task at hand as they prepare to battle the Heat in the CWUAA Final Four on Friday in Vancouver in their hunt for a record-setting seventh straight national title.
"We know we have all the tools to do it, but we also know there are a lot of really good teams out there as well, so we’re just focused on our UBCO game this Friday and yeah, it will be exciting," Barclay said. "We’re trying not to worry about the dynasty or ruining that or anything; just one play at a time, going into each game focused on that."