Matt Packwood, Brandon University Athletics
BRANDON, Man. – The Brandon Bobcats booked their ticket to the Canada West final by overcoming a series deficit, beating the Mount Royal Cougars 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-18) on Saturday night.
It will be the third Canada West conference final appearance for the Bobcats and first time hosting.
"It's one of those opportunities that we had hoped to get at the start of the year and we've put ourselves in a favorable position but it really doesn't mean anything until you play again so we're looking forward to playing Trinity," said coach Grant Wilson.
"They're a fantastic team, extremely well coached and we know they're going to come in here with a vengeance and we're just going to have to be ready and hopefully play our best volleyball."
Saturday's first set was an absolute war, the largest lead for either team was just two points until Brandon went on a 6-1 run to close out the set.
The Brandon offence continued to click in the second set by playing great defence, registering 18 digs as a team in the frame.
The third set was another war with Brandon leading just 19-17 before closing it on another 6-1 run, sending the hometown crowd into a frenzy.
"Playing in front of 1,300 plus people every night just gave us such a huge boost," said Wilson.
"I think that just kind of pushed us through times when we weren't that good and that emotion in the building was unbelievable."
Robin Baghdady continued his impressive play this weekend by leading all players with 15 kills. The rookie import from Geneva, Switzerland has been a force all season for the Bobcats and played another outstanding match in the series clincher.
Hometown product Seth Friesen was just one kill shy of a double-double with nine kills and 10 digs while fourth-year setter Reece Dixon dished the ball efficiently, finishing with a match-high 30 assists and leading his team to a .341 attack efficiency on the night.
Mount Royal was led by Trent Mounter's team-high 10 kills while libero Jonathan Phillips was outstanding, finishing with a match-high 14 digs.
"We were giving it our all. The guys were working really hard and wanted to play for each other out there. I think at times we were doing that and at other times were didn't really quite stick up for each other," said Mounter.
The Cougars should still qualify for the U SPORTS national championship in Quebec City according to the national rankings and the new VRS system implemented this year. The final VRS rankings will be determined after all of the conference championships next weekend.
Friday's Canada West conference championship will take place at the Brandon University Healthy Living Centre between the host Bobcats and No. 2 Trinity Western Spartans.
First serve is set for 7 p.m. CST and is a rematch of the first matches of 2019 for both teams when Brandon swept the weekend series on home court on Jan. 4 and 5.
Photo courtesy Milana Paddock