New Zealand import Sam Tuivai passes the ball in Bobcats practice Wednesday at the Healthy Living Centre. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
It’s been a long summer for Sam Tuivai.
The starting left side for the Brandon University Bobcats men’s volleyball team struggled during the team’s playoff series against the Calgary Dinos last spring. Brandon lost that best-of-three series 2-1 and Tuivai has been anxious to show he’s better than his last match.
"After that loss last year, it just motivates me to do better this year, especially my serve receive," he said before Bobcat practice at BU’s new Healthy Living Centre on Wednesday.
While his final matches are burned into his memory, there weren’t many other dark spots for the 24-year-old New Zealander last season. Tuivai led Canada West with 0.42 aces per set, was fifth in the conference with 4.24 points per set and eighth with 3.44 kills per set. He also posted a .239 hitting percentage in the 15 matches that he played after joining the team late because of issues with his visa paperwork.
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound physical education student hopes to improve on those numbers this season, and he may be in a perfect situation to do it. Brandon had a fairly balanced attack last season with right side Ben Glue, left side Paul Robidoux and middle Jon Sloane, who was named a Canada West all-star last season, in addition to Tuivai and Dan Boutwell getting set up for attacks from Garrett Popplestone. Tuivai, Boutwell and Popplestone are back from last year’s starting six, and Tuivai will be carrying a large load for the team.
"We’ve put a lot of expectation on him," Bobcats head coach Grant Wilson said. "He knows that. He’s going to be one of our go-to guys and he’s going to play a big role both offensively and defensively.
"Based on what we saw in terms of how he developed last year, we feel he can definitely handle that."
Wilson also wants Tuivai to become more of a leader on the team this year. Despite having a powerful arm and a deadly serve, he was one of the quieter, more reserved players on the team. Wilson has noticed that Tuivai has become more vocal and willing to take charge during the pre-season.
Tuivai has also been working on playing a little bit faster to beat blocks. Tuivai hopes with that adjustment, he can continue his success and lead the Bobcats back to the playoffs and take a run at nationals.
"Pretty much just start where I left off last year and keep on doing what I’ve been doing on the court," he said. "I’m going to keep trying to focus on what I do best: Hitting smart, putting the ball where I want it to go and we’ll start from there."
The Bobcats continue pre-season play in Winnipeg today with a match against the Wesmen.
CAT SCRAPS: Emerick Ravier, a guard with the BU men’s basketball team, is hoping to play in their season opener on Nov. 2 against the host Alberta Golden Bears. He’s been practising with the team and has a doctor’s appointment next week to update his recovery from off-season reconstructive knee surgery … The Healthy Living Centre is just a few panes of glass and an operating elevator away from being able to host fans for Bobcat home games. The first Canada West home game of the season is 15 days away when the volleyball teams host the Thompson Rivers WolfPack on Nov. 2. Practices and pre-season games until then are closed to the public.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 18, 2012