There will be a lot of mixed emotions for Garrett Popplestone and Scott Neufeld at this weekend’s Canada West men’s volleyball matches at the Healthy Living Centre.
Both Brandon University Bobcat players grew up in Brandon and tonight’s and Saturday’s matches could be their last ones in the Wheat City while representing their hometown university. Both players have loved their time at BU and hope to have a good feeling when their final regular-season home match comes to an end on Saturday.
"It means a lot (to be a Bobcat), especially when you have an opportunity to make an impact in your hometown," said Popplestone, who played two years of college volleyball at Medicine Hat, Alta., before spending his final three as a setter for BU. "I’m definitely pretty grateful for that. Hopefully others can make an impact in their hometown. I know we don’t have a lot of hometown guys. It’s a good thing to be part of that hometown experience."
"It’s been great," added Neufeld, a libero who spent the last five years with the Bobcats. "All through high school in Brandon I dreamed of playing here. They started when I was in Grade 11. Since then I dreamed about playing here and to play all five years here has been great. It’s been a great experience for me and I’m not looking forward to it to end. I wish I could have a few more years, but I can’t."
The good news for the two fifth-year players is that they can still get at least two more home matches this season. The eighth-ranked Bobcats (10-8) are just two matches out of a home playoff position, and they can catch the seventh-ranked UBC Thunderbirds
(12-6), who are in a tie for fourth place, with a pair of victories over them tonight at 7:45 and tomorrow at 6:45.
Neufeld believes UBC is built similarly to Brandon and the two teams should match up well against each other. However, the Crocus Plains High School graduate would like nothing more than to be able to catch up to UBC, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the standings in the final two weeks of the schedule, earn home-court advantage for the first round of the Canada West playoffs and have one more weekend to play in front of family and friends.
"They’re two games up on us and it makes the games bigger for us than they would normally be if we were playing a team that’s not in the hunt or a first-place team we can’t catch," he said. "It makes it more important that way. If we can beat them twice this weekend, we’ll be tied with them, so it makes it that much more important for us."
Meanwhile, the Bobcats women’s volleyball team (8-10) will try to keep their playoff hopes alive when they host the top-ranked UBC Thunderbirds (17-1), who feature Brandonite Lisa Barclay at left side, at the HLC today at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m. The Bobcats are one match behind Manitoba and Calgary for the final two playoff spots.
Both Bobcat basketball teams, which are eliminated from playoff contention, are in Lethbridge on Friday and Saturday to battle the Pronghorns.
CAT SCRAPS: Left side Craig Lowe of the BU men’s volleyball team has confirmed he will not return to the Bobcats after this season, as he will finish his physical education degree this semester …Saturday will be raincheck night for BU Athletics. Fans with any unused tickets can turn them in for free tickets to that night’s game … Former Swimming Canada CEO and coach Pierre Lafontaine has been named the new chief executive officer of the CIS.