Sam Tuivai hits some balls during Bobcats volleyball practice earlier this week. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
The Brandon University Bobcats men’s volleyball team has clinched its spot in the playoffs, and BU’s women’s team is hoping to join them this weekend.
The Bobcat volleyball teams hit the road today to close out the Canada West conference regular season in Kelowna, B.C., against the UBC-Okanagan Heat on Friday and Saturday. With an 11-9 record, the Bobcats men’s team — ranked eighth in the country — will use the road trip as a dry run for the playoffs.
"We know we are going to be on the road, but we are not really looking at who we are going to match up against, because it still could be one of four teams," Bobcats head coach Grant Wilson said. "So our goal is just to get better this weekend and try to pick up some momentum and be ready for the week after, for the playoffs."
While there isn’t exactly a lot at stake for the Bobcats this weekend — they will finish in either sixth or seventh in Canada West — they are determined to use it to build some momentum for the playoffs. While the Heat have struggled to a 2-18 record this season, Wilson said they are far better than their record would suggest and is expecting a tough test.
"The team that we are playing this weekend, their record doesn’t really reflect how good they are," Wilson said. "They have taken (defending national champion) Trinity (Western) to five (sets), they have taken Calgary to five, and they have played with injuries throughout the course of the year. So, as I told our guys, this weekend is their playoffs. (UBCO is) out, so this is all they have and I expect them to be a pretty dangerous team this weekend and we need to be ready."
The Bobcats may be without their biggest offensive weapon with New Zealander Sam Tuivai — leading Canada West in kills (4.35) per set — expected to be a game-day decision with a leg injury.
Meanwhile, the BU women’s volleyball team will again be without left side Chloe Reimer — sidelined with a broken right foot — while left side Shanlee McLennan is out with a sprained ankle. However, libero Kendra Bommersbach is back after missing last weekend due to illness.
The Bobcats (8-12) go into this weekend’s clash with the Heat (13-7) sitting a game back of the Calgary Dinos (9-11) for the seventh and final playoff spot in the conference. To get into a tiebreaker scenario, the Bobcats need at least one win, and to get some help.
"We need to win one more than Calgary, however that works, this weekend," Bobcats head coach Lee Carter said. "We just have to worry about what we can worry about and at the end of the weekend, look at the out of town scores and see what happens. And even if it does all fall into place, it comes down to that weird sets won and sets lost over the whole season tiebreaker."
Beating the Heat will be easier said than done, however, with UBC-Okanagan having clinched a playoff spot in only its second season in Canada West. However, the Bobcats have also played better volleyball down the stretch, albeit in losing efforts against some of the top teams in the country in UBC, Alberta and Trinity Western.
"It’s our first time ever in Kelowna and they have been pretty decent at home," Carter said. "Just watching video, I think we match up really well with them … We have been playing really good volleyball since after Christmas, but we’ve just had some of the best teams in Canada come in. So if we can maintain our level of play, I think we’ve got a shot."
Meanwhile, at BU’s Healthy Living Centre this weekend, the Bobcats basketball teams — both eliminated from playoff contention — will host the Calgary Dinos on Friday and Saturday.
Head coach Gil Cheung’s BU men’s team (4-14) will battle the Dinos (11-7) on Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 7 p.m. Coach Novell Thomas’ Bobcats women’s team (0-18) will hit the hardwood against the seventh-ranked, league-leading Dinos (15-3) on Friday at 6 p.m., and Saturday at 5 p.m.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 7, 2013