Brendan White of the Brandon Bobcats lines up a kill during university men’s volleyball action against the Winnipeg Wesmen at the BU Healthy Living Centre on Saturday evening. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Brandon University Bobcats head coach Grant Wilson went with a variety of different looks to find the men’s volleyball team’s best starting seven during two pre-season matches against the Winnipeg Wesmen on Friday and Saturday.
For that to happen, it appears that one of the squad’s tallest men will have to change positions.
Wilson has been impressed with the play of his three middles — Dan Boutwell, Brendan White and Frank Jones — and is looking for ways to have all three of them on the court at the same time. On Saturday, he moved White, who’s in his fourth season, to the open left-side spot that was vacated with the departures of Scott Neufeld and Craig Lowe.
It has been a long time since White was on the outside, but he looked solid on Saturday with seven kills, a .429 attack percentage, three digs and one block as the Bobcats beat the visiting Wesmen 3-1 (25-27, 25-19, 25-16, 25-15) at the Healthy Living Centre.
"Right now, Whitey seems to be a logical choice out there," Wilson said. "He’s passing well, he’s defending well. I thought offensively he was one of our best players (Friday) night. For him to do that in limited opportunity on left side is great to see, and we’ll continue to tinker with that for sure."
This has been a strange pre-season for White. The 6-foot-9 Australian has been named one of the three captains for the Bobcats — along with Boutwell and Sam Tuivai — but he has switched between playing middle and left side at practices.
However, the 25-year-old is excelling. Despite not receiving serves on a regular basis for the last two years, White has the best passing percentage in practice according to statistics Wilson’s coaching staff keeps.
White understands what Wilson is trying to accomplish with his move, and he’s grateful for the training he received before coming to Canada.
"That’s just Grant trying to figure out how he’s going to get the best lineup out there, but it’s one of the things I really have to thank my coaches back home about is training us to play at every position," he said. "Sure, I play middle, but I had to learn to pass and I had to learn to set, and that just comes with it.
"I’ve always been a good passer and it just feels natural out there. There’s a few things I need to fine-tune and feel more comfortable about, but overall I love being out there."
Sebastien Steigmeier led the Bobcats on Saturday with 16 kills, six digs and four blocks. Boutwell added eight kills and nine blocks, while Jeremy Davies had 10 digs.
Saturday’s match was a stark contrast to Friday’s 3-1 (25-22, 21-25, 26-24, 25-22) loss to the Wesmen. Steigmeier had 13 kills in the match, with Tuivai and White both adding eight.
Wilson used 12 different players on Friday to see how they would do in different situations, and it didn’t allow them to get into a rhythm, unlike Saturday when the same seven played the vast majority of three of the four sets.
Wilson takes the blame for the loss and, although he believes the team is talented enough to compete for its second straight Canada West title, he thinks the loss served as a good reminder to his players.
"I think it’s a good wakeup call for our guys to understand you can’t just show up and win games in this conference," Wilson said. "It doesn’t matter who you play, if you don’t come to do your job, you’re going to lose. We need to get into that mindset and not think we’re going to coast all the way through and make it to the playoffs cause it’s not going to happen that way."
CAT SCRAPS: Brandonite Conan Mickey received court time for the first time in his career with the Bobcats. The Vincent Massey graduate came in the fourth set on Saturday and had three swings but no kills … BU setter Roy Ching did not dress due to illness.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 30, 2013