Jason Hills, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON — It's rare for the University of Alberta Golden Bears to lose on home court. It's become almost impossible under the guidance of head coach Terry Danyluk, but the No.1 ranked University of Brandon Bobcats pulled off the unthinkable with a four-set victory (25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 25-18) over No.4 Alberta, Saturday night at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
The last time Alberta was swept in a weekend series was almost 19 years to the day (January 14-15) against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
Rookie outside hitter Robin Baghdady led Brandon with 17 kills, while third-year outside hitter Elliott Viles had 15 kills.
Senior left-side hitter Alex McMullin led Alberta with 14 kills and four digs.
Brandon improves to 14-2 and maintains top spot in the Canada West standings, while Alberta drops to 11-3.
"We were up in the third set and it seemed like leading by a number of points this weekend wasn't a good position for us to be in," said Golden Bears associate coach Brock Davidiuk.
"We have to understand what it takes to stay focused in those times. It was disappointing to let that lead go.
"I think we started to show some signs of fatigue. We had such a weak start in the fourth set. They're a real good team, and we can take a lot from how well they stay together and battle."
The Bobcats aren't just red hot right now, they're white-hot. They've won 10 straight games and the Bears second-set victory is the only set they've dropped during that span (30-1).
After Brandon squeaked out the first-set win, the Bears didn't get discouraged and looked poised in their set victory.
They carried over the momentum into the third set. Alberta jumped out to a big lead early and led throughout most of the set, but Brandon showed why they're going to be a national championship contender as they closed the gap in the third set with a big run to steal the set away from the Golden Bears.
Brandon followed the big comeback win in the third set by dominating the fourth set in convincing fashion.
"I think we honestly needed it," said Bobcats head coach Grant Wilson.
"We took for granted thinking things were going to go our way and they're way too strong of a team to ever think that way. It was a wake-up call for us, and I was glad the guys responded."
It was a statement weekend for the Bobcats and the convincing fourth-set victory was a great way to keep this impressive win streak going.
"You don't want to play from behind against a team that is as good as Alberta. We were fortunate we didn't have to do that too much tonight," said Wilson.
"We were focused and dialed in and took care of the ball. They're a great team and we know they're going to be better as the year goes on and we know we're going to have to continue to improve."
Alberta heads south next weekend to play the Calgary Dinos while Brandon takes a "bye" week before engaging in a home-and-home series with the Winnipeg Wesmen, starting in Manitoba's capital city on Thursday, January 24.