Kamloops–The dream is still alive for the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack men’s volleyball team.
The ‘Pack’s hopes of capturing a playoff spot in the Canada West live on after they rallied from a 2-0 deficit to down the visiting University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat 3-2 at the Tournament Capital Centre on Saturday (Jan. 17).
The scores at the Warner Rentals Court were 21-25, 20-25, 25-16, 25-19, 15-10. The Pack now have a record of 9-11 while UBCO has fallen to 6-14.
“You could see us thinking about outcomes and what we had to do,” said WolfPack head coach Pat Hennelly. “Brad (Gunter) sat half a set. I have to give credit to Tyler (Pomietlarz, second year, setter, Kelowna), Randy (Grundmann, second year, outside hitter, Winnipeg) and Nic (Balazs, fourth year, middle, Prince George) for coming in and providing some stability.”
Hennelly added: “Randy came in and I pulled Brad. He went for a walk to clear his head. Brad is a great player. I gave him a chance to clear his head and not worry about the outcome. Like most good players do he came back with a vengeance.”
Gunter, a fourth year outside hitter from Courtenay, wound up with 27 kills in 56 chances with a serving ace, eight digs and two block assists for 33 scoring points. That was four behind the current school record of 37 scoring points set by Kevin Tillie on Nov. 13, 2010 against Manitoba.
“When Pat started a completely different line up in the third set, that is when the momentum shifted,” said Heat head coach Greg Poitras. “He brought in a bunch of energy guys. That shows the depth of their team. They came out and were wiry and made a lot of noise. They played with us and then he put Brad back on and that was the difference.”
Casey Knight (fifth year, outside hitter, Salt Spring Island) had 12 kills in 24 opportunities with seven digs, a solo block and two block assists.
Graham Stoliker (fourth year, setter, Surrey) had 39 assists and five digs. Pomietlarz had 12 assists in three sets.
Stuart Richey (fifth year, outside hitter, Robert’s Creek, B.C.) had nine kills in 23 swings with three digs. He and fellow fifth year Matt Krueger (libero, Abbotsford) were honoured for their five years of service before the match.
“I think there was some nerves for sure and guys start thinking too much,” says Hennelly. “ Stuart Richey was the most stable guy through the first two sets. He was our best outside hitter in those first two sets. He provided spark and enthusiasm. He has leadership qualities that we are going to miss. I was so happy for him when he got a big kill in the fifth set. I am going to miss that guy. He was our most consistent guy tonight. There were flares from Brad and Casey and Randy but Stu was the most consistent.”
The WolfPack will continue their quest for a second straight post-season berth as they entertain Mount Royal at the TCC this week (Jan. 23-24).
“Manitoba loses in five and we win in five, if it goes the other way our season is done,” Hennelly stated looking at the results. “We did what we had to do. UBCO will not make the playoffs. You have to beat the teams who don’t make the playoffs. It ratchets up again with Mount Royal. We are directly tied with but they have a weekend in hand on us. We are tied at nine. The winner of this weekend has a shot of the playoffs. The loser will be out.”
Despite the loss and the elimination from the playoff hunt, Poitras says his young Heat group will take heart from this loss. “We take lessons away from every match. We played good ball for two sets. We had an opportunity in the third set. We need to hone in on different opportunities we had. It was a good experience for our guys.”
– Thompson Rivers University WolfPack