BU Bobcats left side Sam Tuivai was named a second-team All-Canadian on Wednesday night. (FILE PHOTO)
Led by second-team All-Canadian Sam Tuivai, the Brandon University Bobcats are looking to win their first-ever national men’s volleyball title in Quebec City this weekend.
Tuivai, who led Canada West with 4.35 kills and 4.89 points per set this season, was the only Bobcat to be recognized at the CIS award banquet on Wednesday night. He was also the only member of the Bobcats — who are the top-ranked team going into the Canadian championship — to receive any recognition at the national and conference level.
That may fit well into Brandon’s plan for nationals as head coach Grant Wilson would love to have opposing teams focus on the second-year New Zealander to help set up the rest of the team’s offence.
"Our offensive plan is to continue what we’re doing and that’s if we’re passing the ball well, then we can get our middles involved and run some multiple offensive options and take some pressure off of Sam," Wilson said. "Certainly, he will be there when we need him and we’ll rely on him like we rely on everybody else."
While the national championship kicked off on a positive note for Tuivai, Brandon’s first practice at Laval University got off to a strange start. Shortly after the red-hot Bobcats — who knocked off the sixth, third and top-ranked teams in the country en route to a Canada West conference title — stepped on to the court, the fire alarm went off and they were forced to evacuate the building.
The team lost 15 minutes of practice time, but Wilson didn’t think it was a big deal and felt practice went well despite the interruption.
"It was a typical kind of practice," he said. "Just wanted to break a sweat and kind of get the jet lag out. Overall it was good."
What concerns Wilson most is the condition of fifth-year left side Scott Neufeld. The Crocus Plains graduate, who spent most of the season as libero before changing positions in the last weekend of the regular season, injured his ankle during the Canada West final against Trinity Western. Neufeld practised Wednesday, although Wilson said he "wasn’t extremely mobile."
Wilson hopes that some rest and rehabilitation in the next few days will have Neufeld back in Brandon’s lineup for its quarter-final on Friday against the Montreal Carabins at 5 p.m.
Like Canada West’s final four last weekend, Wilson is trying to keep the Bobcats from looking too far ahead and keep them focused on Montreal, which went 6-12 in the three-team Quebec league and advanced to the final before losing to Laval.
"Any team here is capable of winning," Wilson said. "We’re not looking past our first game at all. Our complete focus is on Montreal and provided we take care of business, we’ll deal with who comes at us after that."
CAT SCRAPS: Alberta’s Mitch Irvine was named the CIS men’s volleyball player of the year last night, while Dave Preston of McMaster was named coach of the year … All Bobcat matches in Quebec will be broadcast live on WCG-TV Channel 12 … Brandon University is installing two 15-foot screens at the Healthy Living Centre so people can watch the Bobcats’ CIS quarter-final. Admission is free. Food and refreshments will be available.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 28, 2013