Fans of the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack and University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s volleyball programs can’t say their teams don’t provide drama.
For the second year in a row, the teams played some extremely meaningful matches in Canada West play. And for the second year in a row it was the WolfPack who emerged victorious.
Thompson Rivers went into Saskatoon and swept the Huskies to advance to the Canada West playoffs for a second straight year.
After sweeping the Huskies on Friday, the WolfPack needed the full five sets to beat Saskatchewan 3-2 and knock them out of the playoff hunt. The scores were 26-24, 25-27, 15-25, 25-20, 19-17).
In 2013-14, Thompson Rivers came back from a 1-0 series deficit to beat the Huskies in a best-of-three Canada West quarter-final.
“It was another classic battle between us,” said WolfPack head coach Pat Hennelly. “ It was do-or-die again for both of us. Both teams played more composed volleyball than Friday night.”
“I think the difference was our experience,“ Hennelly stated about his team, which will ride an eight-game winning streak into the Canada West quarter-finals this week at Trinity Western University in Langley, where they meet the host Spartans in a best-of-three series.
The matches on Thursday and Friday (Feb. 12-13) are 8 p.m. starts. Match three, if necessary, will be played Saturday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. All matches will be telecast on Canada West.TV. The Spartans (20-4) have won their last 13 in a row. The WolfPack (13-11) are unbeaten in their last eight and have yet to suffer defeat in league play this calendar year.
In Saskatoon, CIS Player of the Year Brad Gunter (fourth year, outside hitter, Courtenay) led TRU again. He had 21 kills in 47 chances with four service aces, five digs and three block assists. The strong showing earned him Canada West men’s second star of the week honours.
“Brad was on his game but we also got some great passes out of Graham Stoliker (fourth year setter, Surrey),” explained Hennelly.
The Huskies miss out on the Canada West playoffs but they will still be practising. They are the host team for the CIS Nationals starting Feb. 28.
SIDE OUTS Gunter garnered high praise on his skills from a former Vancouver Island resident who also has ties to the Huskies. “I just watched Brad Gunter play here in Saskatoon this weekend,” said Dr. Tom Graham, who was born in Comox. “It’s probably safe to say that I am now the second best left-handed volleyball player to come out of the Comox Valley. Brad is a great player and just so very good for Pat’s team.”
Graham represented Canada in the 1976 Olympics and coached the Huskies from 1985-1992.
– TRU WolfPack