The Brandon University Bobcats viewed the Canada West conference women’s volleyball playoffs as a new season, and they played like a different team, which wasn’t good for them.
The second-ranked Bobcats were out of sorts for most of Thursday night at the Healthy Living Centre and were swept 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-12) by the unranked University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat in the opening match of their best-of-three quarter-final. Brandon struggled to handle UBCO’s serves, get its block going and support the block in the loss.
The Bobcat players came out nervous and never found their groove.
"It was a game of confidence for us," said Bobcats right side Victoria Dakin. "As soon as they started to get ahead a little bit, we started rethinking things and going away from our game plan and it tumbled from there."
The Bobcats kept pace with the Heat early in the first set, but UBCO went on a series of small runs to take control. The Bobcats appeared to gain some momentum by winning three straight points before surrendering the last point in the opening set, but they lost it by dropping the first four points in the second set. Brandon couldn’t climb out of the hole and fell two sets behind UBCO.
Bobcat head coach Lee Carter took out all three of his outside hitters — Dakin, Shanlee McLennan and Vaovai Aiono — as well as setter Kellie Baker during the second set and replaced them with Regan Dahl, Gillian Leech, Brianna Walsh and Mary Thomson. He kept his starters out at the beginning of the third set, but he claims it wasn’t to send them a message.
"Not at all. That was desperation and probably overcoaching," Carter said. "That’s something I wrote down to myself is don’t overcoach.
"Those girls came back and threw some energy in and I thought maybe they could fight to seven or eight and the other girls could come in and grip it and rip it, but it just didn’t work out."
McLennan finished with six kills for Brandon, while Dakin and Lexi Loewen each had five. Dakin and Walsh were each involved in three blocks.
Brianna Beamish had 12 kills and a pair of aces for the Heat, while Megan Festival added 12 kills. Emily Oxland served up four of UBCO’s 10 aces in the match.
The Bobcats now have their backs against the wall as they can’t afford to lose tonight’s rematch at the Healthy Living Centre at 7 o’clock or their season will be over. However, the team isn’t too concerned.
Brandon hasn’t lost back-to-back conference matches this season and Dakin feels if the players get their confidence back then they will force a third and deciding match on Saturday.
"We’ll respond," she said. "We know this is our time. We’re in our home gym, we know what to do, we know how to bounce back well. We’ll come together, we’ll build our confidence and we’ll be fine."
Meanwhile, in Vancouver, the ninth-ranked Bobcats men’s volleyball team came back from two sets down to beat the host UBC Thunderbirds 3-2 (20-25, 20-25, 25-16, 25-22, 15-9) in the opening match of their best-of-three Canada West quarter-final.
Sebastien Steigmeier led the Bobcats with 27 points, while Sam Tuivai added 15 and Dan Boutwell had 11. Frank Jones added seven kills and seven blocks. Ben Chow replied with 24 kills for UBC, with Quentin Schmidt adding 16.
The Bobcats will try to book their ticket to the final four tonight when they take on the Thunderbirds at 9’clock CST.