The Brandon University Bobcats are one win away from appearing in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s volleyball championship.
The eighth-ranked Bobcats secured their spot in Canada West’s final four on Saturday night in Saskatoon when they completed a sweep of the sixth-ranked Saskatchewan Huskies with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-23) victory. The Bobcats took a lot of pride in their quarter-final victory, especially since they lost twice in Saskatoon during the regular season.
“I’m extremely proud of the guys and the way we came in here and handled the adversity and came out playing our best ball of the year,” said Bobcats head coach Grant Wilson. “… Our experience definitely helped keep our guys composed. We didn’t get rattled. We weren’t scoreboard watching. We were just playing one point at a time and staying focused on the next point and it paid off.”
The Bobcats went with a slightly different lineup on Saturday. They moved Scott Neufeld, a fifth-year Brandonite who’s usually the team’s libero, to left side in place of Craig Lowe and brought in rookie Jeremy Davies to fill in at libero.
The Bobcats tried it in the fourth set in Friday night’s win and went on to win all five sets with that lineup during the weekend.
“We passed better, we defended better, we just felt that it gave us more opportunities on offence because we could use our middles more often,” Wilson said. “It spread out our offence and it worked well.”
Roy Ching led Brandon’s attack with 13 kills. Sam Tuivai, who the Huskies focused on shutting down, added 11 kills and two blocks, while Dan Boutwell had nine kills and two blocks. Davies made 11 digs.
Brandon, along with the host Alberta Golden Bears, Trinity Western Spartans and UBC Thunderbirds, will play for the conference title in Edmonton on Friday and Saturday. Brandon will face the top-ranked Golden Bears in its semifinal on Friday at 7 p.m.
The third-ranked Spartans will take on the seventh-ranked T-Birds in the other. The winners will meet for the Canada West crown while the losers will play for the third and final Canada West berth at nationals, which will be held in Quebec City from March 1-3.
While the thought of getting to nationals is creeping into their heads, Wilson doesn’t want his players to focus on that goal just yet.
“The focus is to be better and we feel if we can practise hard this week and go there and play better than we did this weekend, then we’ll have a chance to win a game and move on,” he said.