Matt Packwood, Brandon University Athletics
BRANDON, Man. – Playing in their first Canada West semi-final series and in a hostile environment didn't shake the No. 5 ranked Mount Royal Cougars as they upset the No. 1 Brandon Bobcats 3-0 (27-25, 25-22, 25-20) on Thursday night to open the series.
The loud home crowd of 1,213 made an impact from the first serve, but didn't phase Mount Royal as the Cougars continually improve on their best season in program history.
Neither team served particularly well as Mount Royal registered 18 service errors while Brandon put up 15. The bigger problem plaguing the Bobcats was putting the serve in play, as Brandon registered only one ace.
"They definitely stayed more consistent," said Seth Friesen. "We went on big runs either way, so credit to them. We'll be better tomorrow."
Both teams had seven serving errors in the first set alone as the Bobcats led at the technical time-out of the first and second sets. The Cougars fought off set point in the first to force extras before closing it out.
"I think a few of us thought we had that first set locked up and they stole it from us," said Brandon's fifth-year libero Brady Nault.
"They were a lot cleaner towards the end of the sets, which is a little surprising because usually our strength is after the technical and tonight they were just the better team later on."
The second set saw Mount Royal's offence come alive as one of the best players in the conference turned it on.
Tyler Schmidt was unstoppable late in the match after being honoured pre-game as a first team conference all-star. Schmidt lived up to the hype, hitting against Brandon's triple block time and again but still finding ways to score.
"I think honestly we just wanted it a little bit more than them," said Schmidt. "I think they thought they were going to beat us and they were supposed to beat us but we just came out with a lot of energy and passion and we played as a team really well."
Schmidt led all scorers with 18 kills while Trent Mounter registered 13. Fifth-year setter Tanner Greves ran the offense masterfully for Mount Royal, registering 34 assists while keeping the Bobcats gussing and holding the homeside to just 5.5 total team blocks.
Brandon was led by rookie Robin Baghdady's team-high nine kills while James Weir and Elliott Viles each had six.
The two teams meet again on Friday at the Brandon University Healthy Living Centre with first serve coming at 7 p.m.
Mount Royal will look to close the series and book their ticket to the team's first Canada West final appearance while the Bobcats will look to bounce back and force a third and deciding match on Saturday.
Photo courtesy Milana Paddock