Garrett Popplestone enters his final season with the Brandon University Bobcats men’s volleyball team. Both Popplestone and Scott Neufeld would like to end their CIS careers with a national championship. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Scott Neufeld enters his final season with the Brandon University Bobcats men’s volleyball team. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
It’s now or never for Brandonites Garrett Popplestone and Scott Neufeld.
Since they were in high school — which was when the Brandon University men’s volleyball program began — the pair dreamed of playing for their hometown team and helping it win a national university championship. Both have had solid careers with at BU, but that title has eluded them.
Now they are heading into their fifth and final year of eligibility and Popplestone admits he’s starting to feel the pressure to return to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport final and come away with the championship banner.
"I expect a lot from myself and knowing it’s going to be my last year of volleyball is kind of making me put a little more pressure on myself because it’s a do or die sort of thing," he said.
"I’m taking that into consideration and trying to make the best of it is what I’m looking at."
Popplestone took a bit of a long way route to joining the Bobcats. After graduating from Neelin High School, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound setter went to Medicine Hat College for a year before returning to Brandon to join the Bobcats in his second season of eligibility.
He was part of the BU team two years ago that lost the national final in three sets to the host Trinity Western Spartans, playing in six rallies and recording one assist in the match.
He became the team’s starting setter last season and finished the year second in the Canada West conference with 818 assists, although he was fourth with a 10.62 assists per set average.
Neufeld, meanwhile, joined the Bobcats right after graduating from high school at Crocus Plains. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound libero started all three sets in the championship match in 2011 and had eight digs. He finished 13th in the conference last season with 2.13 digs per set.
Neufeld would like to return to nationals in his final season, but he knows it won’t be easy to book a ticket to Laval, Que., in March.
"We have a lot of new guys," he said. "I don’t really know what to expect, but we have a pretty good group again so hopefully we can make a good run to nationals again like we did a couple years ago."
Six of the Bobcats’ 14 players are new this season, and there has been an extra challenge with them coming from New Zealand, the United States and various areas of Canada.
Popplestone, who is captaining this year’s team with fourth-year middle Dan Boutwell, knows he has a large role in bringing everyone together and getting them on the same page so they can make his dream come true this season, and he’s focused on making it happen.
"It’s exciting and we just need to keep it as positive as we can," he said. "As things go on, I think we’ll just have more positive feedback from each other and just learn from each other and get better as things move on."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 5, 2012