The Brandon University Bobcats men’s volleyball team showed it can be a legitimate threat in the Canada West playoffs this season, but the squad still needs to find a way into the post-season first.
The Bobcats, ranked ninth in the country, took the top-ranked Trinity Western Spartans to five sets on Saturday at the Healthy Living Centre, one day after sweeping them, but their 3-2 (18-25, 25-19, 25-21, 19-25, 15-13) loss left Brandon in a four-way tie for the seventh and final playoff spot in Canada West with two matches left in the season.
The loss was even tougher for the Bobcats (9-11) as they held a 12-10 lead in the fifth set before the Spartans (18-2) went on a 5-1 run to secure the win.
"I don’t want to say I’m disappointed, even though I am a little tonight," said Bobcat right side Sebastien Steigmeier, who had a match-high 25 kills. "There are a lot of teams in the conference who would love to have results like this against this team.
"It was a good weekend for us because we got a win, but we can show the rest of the league that they can’t count us out for playoffs because we can go."
The result was more impressive as the Bobcats were without starting left side Brendan White, who missed his first CIS contest after rolling his left ankle in Friday’s victory. Rookie Joel Makara joined the starting rotation and largely played a defensive role.
Bobcats head coach Grant Wilson rotated Roy Ching and Daryl McCharles onto the floor to give the team a little more size and offensive power in most of the sets.
The 6-foot-1 Makara only had four swings in the match, but Wilson liked what he saw from his rookie left side from Selkirk.
"Joel came in and played well," Wilson said. "He did exactly what we expect him to do."
Sam Tuivai added 17 kills for Brandon, while Dan Boutwell had 12. Frank Jones chipped in with eight kills and was involved in five blocks.
Nicholas Del Bianco had 18 kills for Trinity Western, with Ryan Sclater adding 16.
Although the Bobcats made a statement to the league that they are a threat to win their second title, they will have to overcome struggles away from the Healthy Living Centre to make it happen. Brandon is 0-9 on the road this season and visits the Calgary Dinos (10-10) next weekend.
The Bobcats’ struggles on the road don’t bother Steigmeier as he likes how the team is playing right now.
"Doesn’t faze me," he said. "We’re a solid team. We need to figure some things out and come together. We showed we can completely do that. It’s just like in the pre-season when we played in Laval. We’re not at home, it was away and we beat the national champions three times in a row and we’re starting to play like this. I’m not worried about being in Calgary. We’re good. We’re set up to play the kind of volleyball that can give us a spot in the playoffs."
CAT SCRAPS: Boutwell was honoured before the game as a fifth-year player playing in the final home match of his career.