The Brandon University Bobcats returned to the West Coast hoping to earn a spot at the CIS men’s volleyball national championship, but left the Canada West conference final four empty-handed.
The Bobcats, ranked 10th in the country, dropped a pair of four-set matches in Langley, B.C., to wrap up their season and finish fourth in Canada West. Their hopes of making the national championship in Calgary were dashed on Friday when they fell 3-1 (25-17, 25-21, 22-25, 25-19) to the host Trinity Western Spartans, ranked second in the country. Brandon then dropped the third-place match 3-1 (25-21, 23-25, 26-24, 25-23) to the sixth-ranked Thompson Rivers University WolfPack on Saturday.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” BU head coach Grant Wilson said. “Obviously we came here to finish with a medal, preferably with a gold one, and to come away empty-handed feels pretty empty right now. At the end of the day, we’ll look back and reflect back and see that we did some pretty good things to get to this point and feel good about it. Right now, it’s just an empty feeling.”
Sebastien Steigmeier led BU with 20 kills and 15 digs in the semifinal, while Sam Tuivai added 13 kills. Nicholas Del Bianco had 22 kills for TWU.
Frank Jones led a balanced BU attack in the bronze-medal match with 13 kills and four blocks, while Steigmeier chipped in with 11 kills and four blocks. Tuivai and fifth-year middle Dan Boutwell both added 10 kills, and Boutwell was involved in six blocks. Canada West MVP Brad Gunter had 24 kills for the WolfPack, while Brandonite Blake Majcher had 11 digs and four assists.
The Bobcats had their chances on the weekend. Brandon took a 12-6 lead in the second set against Trinity Western, but let the Spartans tie the set at 18 and then pull away. The Bobcats also built a 10-3 lead in the fourth set against the WolfPack before TRU tied it up at 12 and went on to win the match.
Wilson said dropping those sets, and the matches, were a result of his team’s struggles with its first touches.
“Our serve receive just wasn’t good all weekend,” he said. “We struggled to pass other teams’ float servers. It seemed like we could side out well against the big tough spin servers, but then as soon as a tough float server came along we’d struggle and let teams back into it and give them confidence and unfortunately that happened again (Saturday).”
The Alberta Golden Bears took the conference title by sweeping the Spartans 3-0 (25-20, 26-24, 26-24) on Saturday.
In the women’s final four, Brandonite Lisa Barclay led the UBC Thunderbirds to their second straight conference title with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-19, 25-22) sweep of the Manitoba Bisons on Saturday. Barclay, the league MVP, had 13 kills in the match. She posted 27 on Friday as the top-ranked T-Birds beat the UBC Okanagan Heat 3-1 (25-17, 25-14, 22-25, 25-21).