Dan Boutwell won’t play another volleyball match at Brandon University as a member of the Bobcats men’s volleyball team, but he hopes to create a few more memories before leaving the school.
The 23-year-old middle is in his fifth and final year of CIS eligibility, and Saturday night’s heartbreaking five-set loss to the top-ranked Trinity Western Spartans in Canada West conference action — one night after upsetting the Spartans on Friday — was the final time he got to play in front of the Brandon faithful. Saturday was an emotional day as he was honoured at the Healthy Living Centre for his fine career with the Bobcats.
Boutwell knows he has come a long way in his five years, both on and off the court.
"I didn’t know what to expect. University ball was new to me," the Kenora, Ont., native said. "Straight from high school, I was just a young kid and I learned a lot from players previous and was open to their wisdom. I really appreciate everything they’ve done for me."
Boutwell had a relatively inauspicious start as a Bobcat, appearing in 10 sets in his first season and recording one kill. He became a regular at middle by his third season and has started 68 of the Bobcats’ last 72 matches in conference, playoff and CIS national championship action. He appeared in all but four sets for Brandon in that three-year span.
During his past four seasons, Boutwell, who is in the nursing program, has become one of the most dangerous middle hitters in the conference. The 6-foot-7, 210-pounder has posted an attack percentage of at least .350 in each of his last four seasons with the Bobcats and is on pace for a career-high percentage this season at .407 through 20 matches.
With two regular-season contests left in his career, and possibly a few post-season matches if the ninth-ranked Bobcats (9-11) can clinch a spot in the Canada West playoffs this weekend, Boutwell has racked up 581 kills, 76 blocks and seven aces.
By far, the highlights of his career so far have come from his trips to nationals in 2011 and 2013, when the Bobcats won silver and bronze medals, respectively.
"A lot of good memories," he said. "They didn’t just start in the Healthy Living Centre, they started in the old gym and I have a lot of fond memories there. Seeing this develop here and having a crowd, that’s a great crowd and I don’t know I’ve ever seen it that big.
"As far as highlights, my second year and being part of that run to the national final was quite amazing to be part of that. And last year to win Canada West was pretty amazing."
While Boutwell would have liked his final home match to end on a winning note, he knows his career isn’t over yet. Brandon has conference matches left in Calgary on Friday and Saturday. They are crucial matches as the Bobcats are currently tied for the seventh and final playoff spot in the conference and a pair of wins would secure a playoff berth. However, it all works out, Boutwell wants to finish his CIS career on a high note.
"Most of all, I want to see us reach our full potential," he said. "As long we’re playing the best volleyball we can, I’ll be happy."