Fourth-year middle Dan Boutwell is one of the captains of a Brandon University men’s volleyball team that has some new faces, but enough talent to get to the CIS championship. (MATT GOERZEN/BRANDON SUN)
The more things change, the more they stay the same for the Brandon University Bobcats men’s volleyball team.
Despite having a new head coach and six players in their first year with the club, the team’s goals have not changed: Get back to the national championship. Brandon came one win shy of booking its second straight trip to nationals last season and new BU head coach Grant Wilson believes this year’s crew has the talent to get to Quebec City in March.
"The goal at the start of every year is to get back to nationals for sure and have a shot to win it all," he said. "As usual, Canada West is extremely tough and it’s a grind and you feel if you’re good enough to come out of this conference, then you have a chance to beat anybody at nationals."
Wilson is entering his first full season as head coach, replacing Russ Paddock who took a year’s leave from the team to focus on his duties as the school’s athletic director. However, the players haven’t noticed a lot of change in the coaching style.
Wilson has been with the team since its inception eight seasons ago as Paddock’s assistant coach. Making the transition even easier, he also served as BU’s interim head coach last season during the Brandon University Faculty Association strike that ran through the Bobcats’ pre-season and their first nine league matches.
"During the strike, we had Grant for a couple months there," said Dan Boutwell, a 6-foot-7 middle who is one of the Bobcats captains. "We’re used to his coaching style and it wasn’t much of a transition there."
The Bobcats feature a lot of new talent this season with the likes of American imports Rob McLean and Randy Preval as well as setter Roy Ching of New Zealand and homegrown Vincent Massey graduate Conan Mickey. However, the team’s starting lineup remains largely the same.
Fifth-year Brandon native Garrett Popplestone will start at setter, New Zealander Sam Tuivai will remain at left side and Brandonite Scott Neufeld returns as the starting libero. Australian Brendan White, who started 12 matches last season, will join Boutwell up the middle. McLean, Ching and D.J. McCharles, a Crocus Plains graduate in his second year with the Bobcats, were still battling for the other starting left side and the starting right side spot at practice on Thursday.
Wilson loves the athleticism of his team and believes the Bobcats can be a dynamic force at the net. If anyone struggles during the regular season, which starts tonight at the University of Regina, Wilson won’t be afraid to go to his bench since he has a lot of faith in those players.
"I’d have to say this is one of the deepest lineups we’ve had and it’s shown in practice," he said. "There isn’t a big difference no matter who’s on what side of the net and I think that’s a great thing. It pushes everyone to be better. It makes everyone accountable and that’s certainly what we want."
The Bobcats hope to get off to a good start with a pair of victories in Regina this weekend, and Boutwell can’t wait for the regular season to begin.
"I’m really looking forward to it," he said. "We have had quite a few games that we know are important, but this is when we really have to play and come together as a team. I think we’re ready for that and I’m looking forward to that."
Name Position Year Height Weight Hometown
Dan Boutwell Middle 4 6-7 210 Kenora, Ont.
Roy Ching Setter 1 6-5 210 Nelson, N.Z.
Jeremy Davies Libero 1 5-9 150 Calgary, Alta.
r-Frank Jones Middle 4 6-7 230 Calgary, Alta.
Craig Lowe Left side 3 6-7 198 Acova Beach, Aus.
D.J. McCharles Left side 2 6-5 210 Brandon
Rob McLean Left side 3 6-4 178 East Northport, N.Y.
Conan Mickey Left side 1 6-1 178 Brandon
Scott Neufeld Libero 5 6-1 185 Brandon
Garrett Popplestone Setter 5 6-1 175 Brandon
Randy Preval Middle 2 6-6 210 Queens Village, N.Y.
r-Sebastien Stagmeier Middle 4 6-7 220 Geneva, Switz.
David Stasica Setter 2 5-10 185 Winnipeg
Sam Tuivai Left side 2 6-4 212 Auckland, N.Z.
Scott Vercaigne Left side 1 6-3 180 Winnipeg
Brendan White Middle 3 6-9 205 Brisbane, Aus.
Head Coach: Grant Wilson (first year).
Assistant Coaches: Ed Zalusky, Warren Birch, Pat Thompson, Luke Reynolds.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 26, 2012