The Brandon University men's volleyball team is good, they're really good. Entering the Christmas break, the Bobcats were at 10-2 and won six straight games. The team has now won eight straight games heading into their second week of post-Christmas conference play after winning both games last weekend.
"We've had a really good start to the season for sure, we had a pretty favourable schedule for the most part, but you still have to win the games," said Grant Wilson, Head Coach. "Over the break, we went to Laval and came away with a split against one of the best teams in the country every single year. We are happy with where we are, but we definitely have a ways to go."
The Bobcats two most recent wins came against the Trinity Western Spartans. The Spartans are another team that is one of the best in the country every single year and are led by Canadian national team member, Eric Loeppky. Brandon steamrolled over TWU as they recorded a 3-0 sweep on each night. The two wins moved the Bobcats atop the Canada West standings with a 12-2 record, one game ahead of the Alberta Golden Bears (11-1).
"Those wins definitely added to our confidence moving forward," said Wilson. "They're pretty much the benchmark of a Championship calibre team year in and year out. I think beating them twice meant we're going in the right direction for sure. A lot can change though with injuries, illness, and that sort of thing. We're fortunate to be where we are and we're looking forward to improving on that and we want to just keep getting better."
Thanks to their success, the Bobcats are the top-ranked team in Canada as ranked by U Sport. Trinity Western is ranked third while Alberta is in fourth and Mount Royal is in fifth as the CW conference dominates the top five with four teams in it.
"It's a mixed blessing. We feel like we're being rewarded for the hard work we've put in and it's nice to be recognized like that," said Wilson. "On the same note, a lot of pressure comes with it and definitely some responsibility and that could be good for our group. There is a bullseye on our jersey; there is no sneaking in the back door anywhere. We have to continue to prepare well or else we won't stay on top long."
For the most part, it's been smooth sailing for the Bobcats. I say for the most part because it hasn't been all smooth. The team suffered back to back losses against Mount Royal back on November 9-10. In big part, that's why MR is ranked as the fifth best team in Canada.
"The big focus for our team since the start of the year is consistency. We feel like we are physical enough and athletic enough to compete with the best teams every night," said Wilson. "The best of the best do it every night and that's what we strive to do. There have been a couple nights where we haven't been at our best (Mount Royal twice). We have to understand things won't go our way every night, there will be adversity along the way and that's okay."
Brandon is back at it this weekend against one of the best. They're in Alberta taking on the Golden Bears who have won seven straight games heading into the contest. This weekend could very well determine who will finish atop the CW standings heading into the playoffs.
Alberta has yet to lose a game on their home court (6-0). Brandon meanwhile on the road is 4-2.
"They're one of the perennial favourites to come out of Canada West every year and then win the National Championships," said Wilson. "They're a big team, they're physical and athletic. We know it's going to be a big challenge going in there but we like our group and if we play how we know we can, we're confident we can get it done."
After this weekend, Brandon's remaining schedule looks like this:
@ Thompson Rivers - 7-3, vs MacEwan - 3-9, (home & home) Winnipeg 5-7.
After this weekend, Alberta's remaining schedule looks like this:
@ Calgary - 5-7, vs Saskatchewan - 7-7, vs UBC Okanagan - 0-14, @ Winnipeg 5-7.