The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack men’s volleyball team sports the best record of any of the CIS squads the Kamloops school at the 2013 Christmas break.
Pat Hennelly’s squad has eight wins in 12 matches including winning five of their last six to enter the recess following back-to-back sweeps of Saskatchewan and Mount Royal.
“We hoped to have a competitive season and knew it was important to get some wins early against UBCO and Calgary,” Hennelly says as he looks back at the first half. “We managed to win three-quarters of our matches. The UBC weekend (where they were swept by the Thunderbirds) was a setback. Things really came together starting in Alberta. We do have a veteran squad and most of the guys have been starting before so we knew we were capable of playing this level of volleyball.”
He says the results the team has shown in the first half of the campaign can be attributed to hard work. “We trained harder and longer both last spring and this fall than we have ever done before. We set goals for playoffs and beyond and then set goals on how to achieve them. We can see our efforts paying off in our performances.”
Hennelly says the highlight thus far of the 2013 portion of the Canada West season has been the teams consistency. “We have been in close matches every weekend except for the Friday match with UBC. It was great to sweep #2 Alberta on their court for our first win in Alberta in the regular season on the Friday night then we took them to five sets in the second match.”
Statistically: The WolfPack lead in service aces (1.50 per game) and digs (10.91 per game). They are second in the Canada West in kills (13.09 per game) and assists (12.43 per game) and are third in hitting percent (.277).
Individually: Brad Gunter (3rd year, outside hitter, Courtenay, B.C.) is the Canada West and CIS scoring leader with 5.80 per game and sits second in kills (5.20 per game) and sixth in service aces (0.33 per game).
Colin Carson (5th year, setter, Prince George, BC) is the Canada West leader in assists at 11.07 per game. Both of those players garnered praise from the coach. “Both have been excellent and even with their resumes (both have played for Canada’s Junior National team) have exceeded expectations.
“Casey Knight (4th year, outside hitter, Salt Spring Island, B.C.) has had a breakout first half and has provided the needed offence from the outside to help balance Gunter’s work load. Stuart Richey (4th year, outside hitter, Gibsons, B.C.) had an excellent UBC weekend and has played consistent volleyball during the past six matches. He has consistently come up with timely big plays and has been a stable leader.” Knight is second in the Canada West in service aces (0.42 per game).
Hennelly points to four other players who have impressed during the first half. “Daniel Rod (2nd year, middle, Oz, Norway) has stepped into a starting position for the first time and has been improving every weekend for a second year middle, he has been productive and adds an excellent serve. Jacob Tricarico (5th year,middle, Huntington Beach, CA), Matt Krueger (4th year, libero, Abbotsford, B.C.) and Spencer Reed (5th year, libero, Prince George, B.C.) have all been senior leaders and provided excellent play.”
Tricarico is ninth in the Canada West in blocking (1.05 per game) while Krueger is fifth in digs (2.31 per game).
The WolfPack don’t return to Canada West play until Jan. 10 when they entertain the Brandon University Bobcats. Before that, they will go to Hawaii to play some exhibition matches starting in late December.
“Hawaii will be excellent prep,” Hennelly adds. “They are a solid program and we have the same training opportunities with two-a-days in Hawaii that we would have here. These trips are a great bonding opportunity and I think every player is excited.”
As for the rest of the regular season? “We have some great matches lined up in the second half. We start with longtime rivals Brandon and get to host three teams (Brandon, Trinity Western and Manitoba) with two road games against Regina and Winnipeg.
“We are ahead of all these opponents except Trinity Western but they will all be tough weekends. I thought our first half would be tougher but Manitoba has emerged as a top CIS team and Trinity is leading the conference. The extra home weekend will be helpful and hopefully make a difference,” Hennelly said.
The Jan. 10-11 matches against Brandon will be played at the old TRU Gym in Kamloops.
– TRU WolfPack