The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack are confident of the present and the future but at the same time, respectful of the past as they enter their 2013-14 Canada West men’s volleyball semifinal on Friday (Feb. 21).
The WolfPack are ranked #3 going into the Canada West final four and will meet the #2 seed, University of Alberta Golden Bears. Game time is 6 p.m at the Langley Events Centre.
Looking at the present: the WolfPack have much to be encouraged about. They went into Edmonton for the first time in their history and beat the Golden Bears 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-23) on Nov. 15, 2013. The following night, they were up on Alberta 2-0 before falling 3-2 (25-20, 25-23, 24-26, 20-25, 12-15).
“It is exciting to be back and playing at this time of year,” says WolfPack head coach Pat Hennelly about his team’s return to the ‘Final Four’ after a four-year absence. “We had a pretty good tilt with Alberta in the regular season and we are looking forward to having another great match with them.”
Hennelly says playing in a neutral site will give both teams the same footing. “We should have a few fans there based on the number of B.C. guys we have on our team and that Langley is a short drive from Kamloops. It is almost like a road exhibition match: the emotion will be taken out of it and the best team should win.”
The Golden Bears are coming off a two-match win over the University of Calgary Dinos in last week’s quarter-finals. Both were 3-0 victories. The first night, the scores were 25-23, 26-24, 25-23. The second night, it was 25-23, 25-13, 25-18.
TRU needed all three matches to dispose of the Saskatchewan Huskies: winning the third and deciding match in five sets.
“I think Alberta had some health problems when we played them earlier this year,” Hennelly says about how the opposition will be different when they meet on Friday.” Olmstead, their fifth year left side, was CIS star of the week two weeks ago. He has had some big numbers against UBC and obviously, in playoffs. There is a lot of tradition on that team. We haven’t had a lot of success against them in the past but we are looking forward to seeing what this edition of our team can do this year.”
Ironically, the last time the two schools met was at the 2010 CIS championships, hosted by Thompson Rivers. The Golden Bears won 3-1 (21-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-22). It was a match that current fifth-year setter Colin Carson and libero Spencer Reed (both Prince George, B.C.) started.
The only other post season meeting between the two teams was on May 6, 2010 in Edmonton, Alberta at the Canada West finals. Alberta won that 3-1 (25-18,23-25,25-17,25-20).
Hennelly will be focused again on the present, saying that their performance this year in the regular season should help his squad mentally against Alberta. “We had the same situation last weekend against Saskatchewan (sweeping the Huskies in the regular season). It is good for the guys to know that we can do it. From a confidence standpoint it’s good. We went to the wire last weekend against Saskatcgewab. We are up against a better team. On our side of the court, we have to play a little better than we did against them last weekend.”
Players to watch on the Bears are Ryley Barnes and John Goranson. Barnes was third in the Canada West in the regular season in service aces (0.31), and tenth in both kills (3.45 per game) and points (4.05) per game. Goranson was fifth in hitting percent (.426) and ninth in block (1.01 per game).
The WolfPack again are led by third-year outside hitter Brad Gunter of Courtenay. He was the Canada West kills (5.31 per game) and points (6:04 per game) leader. Gunter also was eighth in digs (2.24 per game).
Carson led the Canada West in assists (10.93).
The winner of Friday’s semifinal will take on the winner of the Trinity Western Spartans/Brandon Bobcats semi in the gold medal match on Saturday night.
Two of the four teams competing at this weekend’s Canada West finals earn berths to the CIS Nationals which begin Feb. 28 in Calgary.
– Thompson Rivers University WolfPack