Every returning member of the Brandon University Bobcats men’s volleyball team has had this weekend circled on their calendar since they saw this season’s Canada West schedule.
The Bobcats have been anxious to get some revenge on the Trinity Western Spartans after they beat the Bobcats 3-0 (25-12, 25-22, 27-25) in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship final on March 6 in Langley, B.C. They finally will have that chance this weekend when the Spartans (2-0) visit the Bobcats (1-3) at the BU gym for a pair of games Friday and Saturday at 7:45 p.m.
"We’re definitely looking forward to this weekend," said second-year Bobcats middle Brendan White, who had five blocks and two aces in the national final. "I think the whole team is ready to go back out there and pick up where we left off last year and come out with a better result than we had in the final last year.
"… I think everyone on the team is feeling the same way. We kind of dropped the ball in the final there, but this year we want to pick up and do a lot better. The motivation is definitely there. We’ve been looking forward to this game for a long time."
While they are looking for some revenge, the Bobcats admit a lot has changed since they last played the Spartans. Five of the six players who started the final for the Spartans, including tournament MVP Rudy Verhoeff, are still there this season, while White and third-year middle Dan Boutwell are the only starters from the final still with the Bobcats this season.
White believes the different roster has produced a different identity for the Bobcats. He feels the team has better blocking and defence this season, but it took time for the team to gel and get its first win of the season, a 3-1 (26-28, 25-13, 25-18, 25-19) decision over the Winnipeg Wesmen last Friday.
The Spartans opened their season with a pair of wins over the Huskies at the University of Saskatchewan and are ranked No.1 in the country.
Boutwell knows the ninth-ranked Bobcats — who remain without head coach Russ Paddock while the BU strike continues — will have to pick up their game in order to upset the Spartans.
"There’s a big jump there, but hopefully we can keep the wins going," said Boutwell, a 20-year-old nursing student. "I think once we face harder teams, we’ll play better."
The Bobcats know it will be even harder to face the Spartans with BU missing second-year left side Craig Lowe due to a knee injury. He practised with the Bobcats for the first time in a limited capacity on Wednesday since re-injuring his knee, but there’s no timeline for when the Australian hitter will return.
"I think it’s been a bit tough not having that one extra player who has the experience that we had last year," said White, who is also from Australia. "I suppose our bench is not as deep as we would like it, but that’s what happens in sports. You have to deal with these things as they pop their head up. That’s how we deal with it as a team, so I think everyone is pushing each other and taking the challenge."
While the men’s team is out for revenge, the Bobcats women’s volleyball team (0-4) will continue to search for its first win of the season when the sixth-ranked Spartans (2-0) come to the BU gym for games Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats women’s basketball team (0-2) will again be without injured second-year guard Madison Bradbury (thigh) and fifth-year guard Jayla Bousquet (knee) when it visits the fifth-ranked UBC Thunderbirds (0-0) Friday night and the Victoria Vikes (1-0) on Saturday. Brandon’s men’s basketball team (1-1) will also face a tough test when it visits the fifth-ranked Thunderbirds (0-0) and ninth-ranked Vikes (2-0) this weekend.