The Brandon University Bobcats men’s volleyball team had an excellent opportunity to knock off the undefeated Alberta Golden Bears on Saturday night at the Healthy Living Centre.
The fifth-ranked Bobcats (10-6) believed the top-ranked Golden Bears (16-0) were ripe for the picking, with both teams within two points of each other at the technical timeout in every set.
However, BU was outplayed late in each set to fall 3-1 (25-20, 25-21, 31-33, 25-21).
While the Bobcats believe they let the match slip away, there’s a lot they can take from the weekend, as they join the UBC Thunderbirds and the Calgary Dinos as the only teams to win two sets over the Golden Bears this season.
Alberta has only dropped eight sets overall.
"Statistically we looked pretty good on paper tonight. We just didn’t get the end result," said BU head coach Grant Wilson.
"We need to build off that and continue to be better … We’ll take away that we challenged the top team in the country and carry that confidence over the next weekends."
In the third set Saturday, the Bobcats were upset with the officials when a Golden Bear appeared to carry the ball but wasn’t called for it as Alberta grabbed the lead on one of Jay Olmstead’s 23 kills.
The Bobcats’ complaints earned them a yellow card, but they rallied to overcome a 23-21 deficit.
However, Alberta bounced back in the fourth set, led by Mitch Irvine, who finished the match with 28 kills.
Sam Tuivai led Brandon with 20 kills, seven digs, five blocks and two aces.
Roy Ching had 11 kills and 11 digs, while Dan Boutwell added eight kills and seven blocks.
The loss drops Brandon into a four-way tie for third place in Canada West with Manitoba, Saskatchewan and UBC with six matches remaining.
While the Bobcats are in the thick of the race for a coveted top-four finish that gives them home-court advantage in the playoffs, their schedule won’t be easy.
Brandon will visit Saskatchewan this weekend before hosting UBC for a pair of matches the following weekend.
However, Tuivai believes the matches with Alberta will give Brandon the confidence to secure one of those spots.
"After this weekend, I’m not too worried about it," he said.
"I think after losing this, the guys will have so much motivation and we’ll come together."