The Brandon Bobcats will be out for blood this weekend.
Last season, the Bobcats men’s volleyball team was knocked out the Canada West playoffs by the Calgary Dinos. It’s seven months later and the returning Bobcat players are still upset about losing the best-of-three conference quarter-final in three matches. This weekend they want to put it past them, which has the Bobcats focused on avenging their defeat last season.
"We’re out for a bit of redemption," third-year middle Brendan White said. "We want to go out and prove that we should have been in the spot they were in."
Brandon (6-2), ranked sixth in the country, will be looking at playing solid defence to top the Dinos (2-6). That includes continuing their successful blocking scheme.
The Bobcats have been a force at the net and are averaging 2.70 blocks per set, the second-most in the conference.
White is impressed with how well his team has been reading other teams’ offences, but he’s surprised at how there’s no one person dominating at the net, as no Bobcat is in the top 10 for blocks per set in Canada West. Instead, White leads a balanced Bobcat blocking attack with 0.90 per set. Dan Boutwell is averaging 0.84 per set with right side D.J. McCharles right behind at 0.83. Randy Preval, a first-year middle, has 0.73.
BU head coach Grant Wilson loves the blocking numbers Brandon has put up, but he admits it goes back to another aspect of their game.
"When we serve tough and other teams struggle with their passing, the setters become more predictable and it allows our block to get nice and solid in front of their attack," he said. "I really think that’s what’s given us the success blocking."
The Bobcats felt good about their preparation for this weekend, but they may have to make some changes to their roster. Starting left side Sam Tuivai, who leads the conference in kills, is nursing a sore right shoulder but is expected to play this weekend. Brandon’s other starting left side Rob McLean didn’t fully practise with the team until Thursday after badly bruising his left knee in last weekend’s matches. He will be a game-time decision for the weekend.
Whether McLean plays tonight at 7:45 or not, the Bobcats remain confident they’ll be successful.
"We have great depth on the bench," White said. "Those injuries are going to happen when you go hard at the start. Now it’s about making sure we take care of our bodies."
The BU women’s volleyball team (4-4) is looking to bounce back from getting swept last weekend and bring its record above .500 against the Dinos (3-5) today (6 p.m.) and Saturday. BU head coach Lee Carter believes his team’s on the right track based on how they practised this week.
"I’m really impressed with the work ethic we’ve had this week and we’ll see what happens this weekend," he said. "Every weekend is like writing a final exam. You have to lay it on the line front of everybody and get judged at the end of it."
Meanwhile, the Bobcats basketball teams are on a B.C. road trip this weekend. The women (0-6) will be looking for their first win of the season when they visit the UBC-Okanagan Heat (2-4) tonight in Kelowna and the Thompson Rivers WolfPack (4-2) on Saturday at Kamloops.
The BU men’s team (1-5) will try to play a full 40 minutes for the first time this season against the host Heat (1-5) tonight and again on Saturday against the WolfPack (2-4).