KAMLOOPS – The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack face a bit of an uphill battle again as they begin the second half of the Canada West men’s volleyball season.
In 2014-15, the WolfPack had to run the table and win eight straight matches in order to secure the final playoff spot.
After a 4-8 first half, Pat Hennelly’s crew faces a similar scenario as they begin the second half this weekend (Jan. 8-9). They sit in a tie for ninth place while the host Mount Royal University Cougars (5-7) are in eighth.
“We painted ourselves in a very similar corner to last year,” said Hennelly. “This year, we have more matches so we don’t have to win them all. We do need a minimum of eight or 10 wins to make the playoffs. These first six matches (vs. Mount Royal, Saskatchewan and Regina) are crucial.
“Mount Royal and Saskatchewan are both in the hunt. We can do ourselves a double favour by putting more victories in our win column and giving them more defeats. Regina is a team which is almost mathematically out of the playoffs so it is a team that we have to beat.”
The core of the WolfPack experienced that drive to the post season in 2014-15. That experience should help them this time around.
Graham Stoliker (5th year, setter, Surrey, BC), Brad Gunter (5th year, outside hitter, Courtenay, BC), Daniel Eikland Rod (4th year, outside hitter, Oz, Norway) Brandon Hewwing (5th year, outside hitter Calgary, AB) were key ingredients to the team’s success in the second half last season and will be counted on heavily this year.
Gunter leads the Canada West in kills (209), is second in kills per set (4.45) and is fourth in digs (108).
Hennelly says Stoliker, Gunter and Brandon Hewwing (5th year, outside hitter, Calgary, AB) have a lot riding on the team’s showing over the last 12 matches. “This is their season and the end of their career. They obviously have a vested interest on how this plays out. All of them have had good seasons and we expect them to lead by example in the stretch run here.”
The WolfPack are coming off a tournament victory last week involving UBCO, the University of Calgary and Royal Military College. “It was great to get some competition during what seems like a long break,” Hennelly said.
“We rolled out our starters and beat Calgary and Royal Military College. The young guys had a shot against UBCO and gained some experience. I thought we had lots of intensity and emotion against Calgary and that is what I am hoping we carry forward into this weekend.”
As far as matching up against the Cougars: “I think it is a good matchup,” Hennelly states. “They rely heavily on their right side like we do. They have some senior players like we do. They have four or five fifth year players. The matchup is pretty straight forward.
“It is going to come down to performance and for us, it will be how long we can play the volleyball we are capable of playing. We have had matches where we have led quite comfortably and lost. We have had sets where we have wound up losing. The key is to maintain that intensity.”
SIDE OUTS After the weekend, TRU returns home to the Warner Rentals Court at the Tournament Capital Centre for the first time in 2016 on Jan. 15 when they entertain the University of Saskatchewan Huskies … all TRU games are webcast on Canada West pay-per-view television (http://Canadawest.TV) …