The Brandon University women’s volleyball team may be young this season, but that doesn’t mean the Bobcats are inexperienced.
This year’s squad doesn’t have any players in their fifth year of eligibility and only two in their fourth season. However, five of the Bobcats’ seven starters from last year are returning to the court for its season-opening match in Regina on Friday night, which is why BU head coach Lee Carter has high expectations for his troops.
“We deserved a better fate last year with everything these athletes had to go through. It wasn’t really fair to them,” he said before practice on Wednesday. “I believe the resiliency they showed last year will pay dividends this year. So we expect not only to be a playoff team, but be a playoff contender.”
Brandon was without Carter on the bench during part of the pre-season and nine of the team’s regular-season matches during the Brandon University Faculty Association’s strike. Brandon went on to finish in a tie with Thompson Rivers for the final playoff spot in the Canada West conference with a 9-11 record, but missed the post-season by two sets in the set-differential tiebreaker.
That experience has the team a bit on edge this season as they know how valuable each set is and they don’t want to let one slip away.
“We need to … use it as encouragement to push us forward because if we were that close last year — and I think our squad has a lot of people better than last year — then we should be able to push forward and use it to our advantage and it will make us stronger instead,” said Bobcat Chloe Reimer, who’s returning as a starting left side.
Setter Kellie Baker, right side Victoria Dakin and middle Meaghan Robertson are also back this year. Alexis Loewen and Larissa Vonkeman will continue to battle for the other starting middle spot.
Shanlee McLennan, who was named MVP at the National Team Challenge Cup this summer, joins the starting lineup at left side.
It’s at libero where there may be a little bit of a weakness. Last year’s starter, Lindsay McLaughlin, decided not to return to the team, leaving Kendra Bommersbach to fill in that void. This is Bommersbach’s first year out of high school and Carter knows it’s a lot to ask a young player to start at libero. Because of that, his expectations aren’t as high as they were when Donata Huebert was starting in that position.
“We’re excited about her and where she’s going,” he said. “We have a lot of good ball-control players so if we need to, we can limit what she needs to do. … Kendra’s a first-year player and she needs to progress through.”
The Bobcats aren’t taking Friday’s match lightly. They know they have to stay ahead of Regina in the standings to reach the playoffs and want to get a pair of early victories.
“I think we need to know who we are and play the way we know we can,” Reimer said. “Our practices have been intense and we haven’t lost to Regina in the pre-season yet, so we know we should beat them. Now it’s just turning that knowing into doing.”
CAT SCRAPS: Bobcats guard Emerick Ravier met with doctors on Wednesday and was told he is still a month away from rejoining the men’s basketball team. Ravier is recovering from reconstructive knee surgery.
Name Position Year Height Hometown
Jodie Baker Middle 1 6-1 Brandon
Kellie Baker Setter 4 5-10 Brandon
Kendra Bommersbach Libero 1 5-4 Winnipeg
Victoria Dakin Left side 3 6-0 Calgary
Brooke Huculak Left side 1 5-10 Forrest
Jasmine Lafournaise Middle 1 5-11 Russell
Gillian Leech Left side 1 5-10 Brandon
Alexis Loewen Middle 4 6-0 Winkler
Shanlee McLennan Left side 2 5-11 Winnipeg
Chloe Reimer Left side 3 5-9 Sanford
Meaghan Robertson Middle 3 6-2 Brandon
Mary Thomson Setter 1 5-10 Brandon
Larissa Vonkeman Middle 3 6-1 Lethbridge, Alta.
Brianna Walsh Left side 2 5-11 Calgary
Head Coach: Lee Carter (eighth year).
Assistant Coach: Lisa Nichol, Derek Richels, Erin Visch-Krahn, Becky Young, Sara Grona, Jaryn Ruether, Kevin Neufeld.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 25, 2012