Left side Shanlee McLennan is second in Canada West in aces and second on the Bobcats in kills. (FILE PHOTO)
The Brandon University Bobcats women’s volleyball team came in with high hopes of making the Canada West conference playoffs and surprising a few teams this season.
However, they didn’t get off to the start they needed and posted a disappointing 5-7 record.
It’s with them that we continue the Sun’s series of midterm reports on the four Bobcat squads.
The biggest challenge facing the Bobcats this season has been their psychology. For most of the first semester, the Bobcats faced teams that were supposed to be below them in the standings. However, errors seemed to weigh on the players’ minds longer than it should and that led to more errors on the court, lost sets and eventually lost matches.
This problem became very noticeable after a short week that wrapped up with a pair of road matches in Calgary against the Mount Royal Cougars. Brandon was swept in both of those, came back home and looked no better in its first two sets the next weekend against the Calgary Dinos.
The Bobcats appeared to solve their mental breakdowns for the rest of the weekend, but fell victim to them once again in their past two matches against the Winnipeg Wesmen.
Dealing with adversity has become the focus of the team’s training during the Christmas break, and it’s desperately needed.
"Our athletes have won more than they’ve lost, and I think the idea of struggling for them is relatively new," BU head coach Lee Carter said. "… For them it’s a new experience and they need to learn to get a new skill."
The good news for the team is that when the Bobcats play a confident game, they look good. Brandon beat Manitoba when the Bisons were ranked as one of the country’s best 10 squads, and Calgary was no pushover.
The Bobcats have a balanced attack when they play well, led by third-year right side Victoria Dakin, who averages 2.55 kills per set. Second-year left side Shanlee McLennan is right behind her with 2.24 kills per set and is second in the conference with 0.67 aces per set. Third-year middle Meaghan Robertson is fourth in Canada West with a .360 hitting percentage and fourth-year setter Kellie Baker is eighth with 8.90 assists per set.
"When we play with confidence we can play and compete with anyone," Carter said. "We just have to get over the idea of competing with them and get into the idea that we need to win."
PUSH TO THE FINISH:
The Bobcats didn’t do themselves any favours in the hunt for a playoff position. They are one match back of the final playoff spot and have an extremely tough second half with home matches against the UBC Thunderbirds and Alberta Pandas, ranked No.1 and No.3 in the country, respectively. BU also has to travel to B.C. to play the second-ranked Trinity Western Spartans and the ninth-ranked UBC-Okanagan Heat. The Bobcats will also visit the Saskatchewan Huskies (1-11).
The good news for the Bobcats is that they felt they lowered their level of play against supposedly weaker teams. With four of the their final five opponents ahead of them in the standings, there will be a lot of pressure on the players to bring their best performance to every match for the rest of the season.
"This is going to be a blast of a semester," said Carter, who believes his team’s playoff hopes will come down to the final weekend for the second straight year.
"The idea that we get to compete against the best is exciting. I know the girls are excited about it and it’s easy to get up and perform when you’re playing the top. We’ve shown when we play teams that are supposedly better than us, we’ve been able to perform really well. This will allow us to get going."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 13, 2012