After a one-year absence, the Brandon University Bobcats are returning to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s volleyball championship tournament.
The eighth-ranked Bobcats upset the Alberta Golden Bears — the top-ranked team in the country — 3-1 (24-26, 25-23, 25-23, 27-25) in their Canada West semifinal Friday night in Edmonton. With the victory, Brandon booked its ticket to nationals in Quebec City and to tonight’s Canada West final in Edmonton.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” said Bobcats head coach Grant Wilson. “We came in here the underdog and not expected to be here, let alone win. Everybody in our room believed we could and everyone in our room believed in each other. We laid it all on the line tonight and thankfully it worked out.”
The Bobcats came out firing in the semifinal, but blew a 23-17 lead and lost the first set. However, they didn’t let that get them down. Brandon battled back to earn a 22-18 advantage in the second set and went on to even the match at one set apiece. The Bobcats controlled the third set and were forced to come back from a 23-20 deficit to claim the fourth set and the match.
Brandon’s ability to battle back from adversity impressed Wilson, who said that was the key to winning.
“We felt we should have won the first set,” he said. “It was ours for the taking and we let them come back into it. Guys realized after that that we could play with them and we were as good as they were when we were taking care of business. We came out in the second set on a mission and were able to hold on and win the second set and the confidence grew from there.”
Friday’s match was the first time in school history that Brandon beat Alberta on its home court.
Sam Tuivai, who was earlier named to the Canada West all-star team, had 16 kills, nine digs, two aces and two blocks for Brandon. Roy Ching added 16 kills, seven digs and three blocks, Dan Boutwell chipped in with nine kills and four blocks, and Garrett Popplestone had four kills and 43 assists for BU.
The Bobcats advance to today’s Canada West final against the winner of last night’s late semifinal between the third-ranked Trinity Western Spartans and the seventh-ranked UBC Thunderbirds — coached by Brandon native Richard Schick — at 9 p.m.