COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN
Bobcats middle Lexi Loewen hammers the ball at Winnipeg’s Alicia Perry and Ellina Domnidou as BU teammates Shanlee McLennan (left) and Kellie Baker watch on Friday.
The Brandon University Bobcats women’s volleyball team ended its two-year playoff drought and set a new team record for most wins in a Canada West season on Friday night at the Healthy Living Centre.
The Bobcats, ranked second in the country, booked their ticket to the Canada West playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign by earning a 3-0 (25-18, 25-19, 25-19) victory over the visiting University of Winnipeg Wesmen. It was the team’s 14th win of the season, surpassing Brandon’s previous high of 13, which was set in 2009-10.
For fifth-year Bobcats setter Kellie Baker, it’s her first trip to the post-season as a starter and she’s happy to finally get there, especially since it’s her final year of eligibility.
"It’s pretty big," said Baker, who had 39 assists, three aces and seven digs on Friday. "We’ve never been pretty sure that we were going to be in the playoffs 100 per cent, I guess. It’s weird to have that feeling that we can only keep rising from here."
The Bobcats dominated most of Friday’s contest. They jumped out to early advantages in the first two sets and cruised to wins.
Winnipeg grabbed a five-point edge early in the third set, but Brandon closed the gap and took the lead on a 6-0 run sparked by the serving of Victoria Dakin. The team never looked back after that.
The key was Baker was able to distribute the ball all over the court and all five Brandon attackers put it away, each recording at least seven kills in the contest.
"Things are starting to get going," Baker said. "I feel once we start to get on a roll it’s hard to stop us because we can score from every position, and it’s nice to have that option to spread that ball around. Not a lot of teams have that option."
Vaovai Aiono led Brandon (14-4) with 12 kills, while Shanlee McLennan added 10. Baker and Dakin both served up three of the Bobcats’ nine aces, while Lexi Loewen was involved in six blocks. Carleen Kruschel paced the Wesmen (6-12) with 11 kills, while Shoal Lake’s Natasha Rupa, a rookie setter, finished with 28 assists and four digs.
Although the Bobcats have secured their spot in the post-season, they know they still have a lot more work to do.
Brandon hopes to lock up second place in the conference and secure a home playoff series.
The road to that goal will be tough as next weekend Brandon hosts the third-ranked Trinity Western Spartans, who were 12-4 heading into their match late last night against the winless Thompson Rivers WolfPack. Bobcats head coach Lee Carter knows how important home-court advantage will be in the post-season and is determined to secure it in the next two weeks.
"We’re really good at home, so we need to get a home game and we’re going to do everything we can to get a home playoff weekend here," said Carter, whose team is 8-1 at the Healthy Living Centre. "Once we’re playing at home we’re really good and then look out."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 25, 2014