The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack men’s volleyball team are unbeaten after the opening weekend of play in Canada West.
The WolfPack took both ends of a home-and-home series with the University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat. Saturday, Oct. 26 at the Tournament Capital Centre in Kamloops, the match was 3-1 (25-16, 27-25, 23-25, 25-22) in favour of the WolfPack.
“It was a best-case scenario for us,” said Thompson Rivers head coach Pat Hennelly about the result. “It looked like we were going to win three zero. We took the foot off the gas. You can’t do that in this league.
“I give all the props to UBCO. It was much better volleyball tonight than last night (where TRU won 3-0). They were very determined,” said Hennelly.
“We deserved to lose that third set because we took our foot off the gas in the second. We made some great plays to win that set but we gave them momentum. It was a great lesson for our guys this early in the season.”
“We played better tonight,” stated Heat coach Greg Poitras. “We changed a couple of things in our lineup and had better match-ups. TRU played well both nights. This is a different team than we’ve seen from them in the past.”
When asked to explain, Poitras said, “ They seem to have more balance and skill. They are out to win, not just poking around. They want to beat teams. Gunter (Brad, 3rd year, outside hitter, Courtenay) is a major player. We hope he doesn’t have a good night or we are in trouble.”
Gunter did have a good night for TRU. He had 18 kills in 36 swings along with three service aces and 10 digs. Phil Ozari (2nd year, outside hitter, Birkerod, Denmark) was named the TRU player of the match for his 15 kills in 24 chances with five digs and four block assists.
Hennelly was happy to see the offence distributed in this one between Gunter and Ozari. “I thought Phil from the service line and hitting—he was intense and ready to play. That is what we need. We need another guy. We need a dynamic duo to lead us. We saw it last year that when both those guys are firing, we are pretty successful.”
The WolfPack opened the season Oct. 25 by spoiling the home debut of the Heat 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-22).
The ‘Pack were playing without head coach Hennelly who was suspended for a match.
“Although the team served aggressively and kept UBCO off balance, we started a bit nervous but managed to get control in every set,” Hennelly said about his squad.
The WolfPack were once again led by Gunter, who had 18 kills in 38 opportunities. He added two service aces and nine digs.
“Brad played great,” Hennelly stated. “He went on a serving run in the third set when we were down 8-3 and served six straight points to get us up 9-8 forcing UBCO to take a time out.”
Hennelly says this weekend gets his club off to a great start. “I guarantee that this year will come down to between one and two wins to decide five different spots.
“Just like last year: we wound up tied for eighth. One more win would have put us in the playoffs. We can’t take anything for granted this year.
“The hard work we put in this spring and summer in the gym has paid off so far. I appreciate what the guys did out there this weekend.”
– Thompson Rivers University WolfPack