The last time Donata Huebert spent a season with the Brandon University Bobcats women’s volleyball team was the last time the squad made the Canada West conference playoffs.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, that 2010-11 team was knocked out in the quarter-finals by the Manitoba Bisons. Brandon wasn’t able to reach the post-season in the next two seasons.
This year, the 5-foot-9 libero from Germany returned to the Bobcats and they’re back in the playoffs. Tonight, Brandon begins its quest to win its first playoff series when the second-ranked Bobcats (17-5) host the unranked UBC Okanagan Heat (12-10) in the opening match of the best-of-three quarter-finals at BU’s Healthy Living Centre at 7 o’clock.
Huebert and middle Meaghan Robertson are two starters from that 2010-11 squad on this year’s team, and BU head coach Lee Carter is convinced Huebert’s return is a huge part of the Bobcats’ success.
However, Huebert refuses to look at it that way.
"I don’t compare this season to that season because we have a different team and different players and a different gym," she said. "I don’t think it’s comparable. I’m just excited to play this weekend."
Huebert has added a lot to the Bobcats this season. Although she doesn’t score points, she’s rarely out of position in the back row and helps the Bobcats set up their offence when opponents decide to attack her. She also adds a calming influence to the team, which has helped it excel this season, especially after the Christmas break as the Bobcats have gone 8-2 and dropped just eight sets since then.
The Heat, meanwhile, are going in the wrong direction. They have dropped eight of their last 10 conference matches and have won only 10 sets in that period.
That doesn’t mean this series will be easy for Brandon. Like the Bobcats, the Heat are a balanced team that can score from anywhere. They are also battle-tested as they made the playoffs last season in just their second year in Canada West.
The Bobcats and Heat are quite familiar with each other as they met in the first semester and both went to a tournament in Barbados over the Christmas break, with UBCO winning the event. Carter knows the Heat will put up a good fight.
"They’re going to be tough," he said. "They’re not going to make many errors. They’re going to serve the ball tough and put pressure on us. We just need to be able to respond and score and put them in pressure situations so we get the ball back and get a better opportunity. … It’s going to be a battle."
The second match of the series will be Friday at BU at 7 p.m., with a third match, if necessary, on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, the 10th-ranked Bobcats men’s volleyball team is in Vancouver to begin its best-of-three quarter-final series against the fourth-ranked UBC Thunderbirds tonight at 9 o’clock CST. The winner will advance to the CWUAA final four in Langley, B.C.
The BU basketball teams are also on the road, heading to Regina for games on Friday and Saturday to close out their seasons. The BU women (6-14) will be looking for a big upset of the fourth-ranked Cougars (18-2), while the Bobcats men’s team (5-15) will try to avoid finishing in the Prairie Division basement with at least one win over the Cougars (4-16).
CAT SCRAPS: The Bobcats women’s volleyball team will be without M/RS Jodie Baker (mononucleosis) this weekend.