TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Libero Jeremy Davies dives for a dig in weekend pre-season action for the Brandon University Bobcats.
When Brandon University Bobcats men’s volleyball team head coach Grant Wilson first saw Jeremy Davies at training camp last year, he was so impressed with Davies’ skill his coaching staff joked that then-fifth-year libero Scott Neufeld’s job was at risk.
The joke wasn’t much of a laughing matter during the Canada West playoffs as Davies was thrust into the starting lineup after Neufeld was moved to left side. This season, the starting libero position belongs to Davies, and there isn’t anyone trying to take it away from him.
It’s something Davies, a 19-year-old Calgary native in his second year with the Bobcats, hoped would happen when he committed to BU, and he’s loving it.
"It’s pretty cool being on top," he said. "Scott was, I would say, one of the best liberos in the league last year. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that, but it was pretty cool having him mentor me."
Although he may not be the most experienced player on the Bobcats, there are some big expectations for Davies. Part of that comes from the experience the 5-foot-9 Davies gained by playing in the Canada West playoffs and CIS championship tournament — helping Brandon win bronze at nationals — but also because he made the junior national team this past summer.
Despite never making a provincial team, Davies was selected as the only libero for the Canadian crew and started every match at the FIVB men’s under-21 world championship in Turkey, in which Canada placed 12th. Davies ranked fifth in the tournament for digs per set with 1.77.
Davies loved his time with the national team, but doesn’t feel like he’s that much of a different player, except that he is a lot better with his hand passing.
Wilson, however, sees things differently.
"I don’t think it’s skill so much as confidence-wise and communication-wise," Wilson said. "He’s always been an energy guy, but he’s essentially taken a leadership role on the court, which is fantastic to see. There’s a lot of communication going on between himself and the other defenders and the blockers. He’s just a big influence on the floor."
Libero is one of the most underrated positions on the volleyball court, but Davies will play a huge role with the Bobcats this season. He is solid on serve receive and covers the court well, getting to balls that Wilson believes most Canada West players couldn’t dig up. He showed off his skill with 24 digs in Brandon’s first two pre-season matches on the weekend.
He also brings a calming influence to the back row on their serve receive, which is huge for the pre-season as starting spots for the Bobcats are up in the air with Wilson juggling the lineup to figure out the starting seven.
"I think he’ll have a massive role, especially when we’re tinkering with that other left side spot," Wilson said. "He’s going to help the confidence of whoever is in that spot passing so that they don’t have to cover too much court, that he’s out there to help cover defensively and he’s just going to get balls that other defenders don’t get to. It gives our entire team confidence."
Davies is excited for his first season as a full-time starter and he can’t wait for the Canada West regular season to begin on Oct. 25 when the Bobcats host the Regina Cougars. He has high hopes both for himself and for the team.
"Coming from last year I think anything can happen," he said. "I think we have a pretty good team and a pretty good chance. Personally, I want to try and stay consistent throughout the year and help the guys out."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 1, 2013