The Brandon University Bobcats women’s volleyball team had a major turnaround this season and three members of the squad were honoured for sparking the change at the CIS awards banquet on Thursday in Regina.
Donata Huebert was named the country’s best libero and a first-team all-Canadian, while Lee Carter took home the CIS coach of the year award. Additionally, Bobcat left side Vaovai Aiono was named to the CIS all-rookie team.
It’s the second time Huebert has been CIS libero of the year. She also won it in 2011 before returning to Europe to play professionally for a pair of seasons. She came back to Brandon this season and admits this year’s award means more to her.
"It was different," the second-year player said via telephone. "I understood the impact that I can have as a CIS athlete. Also, I’ve lived longer in Canada and Brandon. Canada feels like a second home to me, so I was really, really honoured and proud to get this award and show everyone that I worked hard during the season and try to be the best on my team. … It was awesome."
The 5-foot-9 native of Minden, Germany came into the season looking for inspiration from her coaches, teammates and professors and wanted to inspire younger players in the community as well. She felt she did that by becoming a team leader and solidifying Brandon’s back row. She averaged 3.64 digs per set, which was fifth-best in conference play.
Huebert’s leadership and communication helped settle the players down on the court. Her professionalism rubbed off on her teammates and helped the Bobcats rebound from an 8-14 Canada West record in 2012-13 to a 17-5 mark this season, good enough for second place.
It’s most wins the Bobcats have had in a single season and the first time they beat every other team in the league in their nine years of existence.
That turnaround, as well as leading the Bobcats to the second ranking in the country for the final five weeks of the season, helped Carter earn the Marilyn Pomfret Award as coach of the year. Brandon, however, fell in the first-round of the playoffs and missed a chance to play at nationals.
Carter was honoured and humbled by the award, but admits it’s also a credit to his assistant coaches, players and the athletic department. He also wishes he could have shared it with his team in Regina.
"Thank goodness for Donata and (assistant coach) Erin Henning here, otherwise it would be a pretty lonely award," he said. "It would be an unbelievable award if I was here to celebrate it with my team, but unfortunately we’re here by ourselves. It’s still an honour."
Meanwhile, Aiono, a 5-foot-11 left side from Auckland, New Zealand, started 23 of the Bobcats’ 24 matches this season and finished third on the team with 187 kills, for 2.34 per set, and 20 aces. She was fourth on the team in blocks with 43, or 0.54 per set, and digs with 155.