When the Team BC men’s volleyball team hits the court for competition at next month’s 2011 Western Canada Summer Games, it will have a big tie to Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. Team BC has four members with a direct link to the CIS WolfPack.
Team BC head coach Pat Hennelly and assistant Drew Venables occupy the same role with the WolfPack. And two of their players – Brad Gunter (Comox Valley) and Nick Balazs (Prince George) – will be rookies at TRU come September.
The four, along with the rest of Team BC, have been working out at the TRU and the Tournament Capital Center in preparation for the Games.
“Training camp has been a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun,” says Balazs, who is into his second year with Team BC. “We’ve had a pair of two–and–a–half hour practices every day. But you can’t get better unless you do that. It’s worth it.”
“This is great,” Gunter explains about his third straight selection to Team BC. “Every time has been a good experience. I’m so glad that the competition is here in B.C. so our friends and family can come and watch.”
“Brad was voted best attacker in his age group at the Western Elites,” says Hennelly of the talented G.P. Vanier grad. “We are looking for him to carry a big offensive load off the right side. Nick is doing very well at middle. We’ve got some pretty good competition there. He has to provide a solid block for us and his offense has constantly been getting better.”
Both Gunter and Balazs jump over 11 feet.
Hennelly agrees that the time he spends with Gunter and Balazs will give them a head start to seeing more court time with the WolfPack when the CIS season starts. “It’s good when you get to coach your own guys. Some of the same cues that I am going to use with Team BC will be the same I use with the WolfPack. I get to work with them for five weeks during the summer, so by the time our training camp rolls around, they won’t be your typical rookies.”
And how do the two feel about kicking off what should be a five–year stint as teammates in their soon to be adopted hometown and gym? “Nick is a great guy,” says the 6’7” Gunter, who was named “The Province newspaper’s top high school boys volleyball player in 2010-11. “I didn’t get to know him until last year with Team BC, but we are starting to find our timing out there on the court. That should help us when we begin playing for the WolfPack.”
Hennelly believes that the two having a chance to play in a high level competition at the Tournament Capital Center will help them adjust to life in the CIS. “I am hoping for some big crowds when the volleyball competition begins here.
“People in Kamloops will hopefully come out and support us and we’ll have a big crowd. When you have a charged atmosphere, on your home court, it is going to help you down the road.”
He also admits that the TCC is very difficult for players who don’t get a lot of exposure to it. “This is a tough gym to play in because it’s so big. You have to adjust your depth perception.”
The volleyball competition at the Western Canada Summer Games begins Thursday, Aug. 11. Team BC takes on Team Yukon in their first match at 5 p.m.
– Thompson Rivers University