WolfPack Men’s Vollleyball Hope Home Court Brings Success
KAMLOOPS — If there is any magic to ‘home court’ then the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack are hoping to utilize it this weekend.
The WolfPack are entertaining the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in a pair of Canada West men’s volleyball matches on Friday and Saturday (Jan 15-16). Both matches will be played on the Warner Rentals Court at the Tournament Capital Centre.
Thompson Rivers is fighting to stay in the playoff hunt (4-10) while the Huskies sit in a .500 position (7-7).
The WolfPack are coming off being swept by Mount Royal last weekend while Saskatchewan split in Brandon.
Head coach Pat Hennelly looks at this weekend like this: “It is only a matter of time when you reach a number where you are theoretically or mathematically out. At this point, we haven’t reached that point. I believe that similar to last year 12 or 14 wins will be the number you need to make the playoffs. For sure there will be ties. Right now because of what happened at Mount Royal we do not have a good tie break record. I won’t look at it until we get more wins. We are trying to take this weekend as playing one game at a time. We will take it a set at a time and establish a positive feel on the court. The only way we can make a run is if we have a positive effect on the court.”
Hennelly adds the goal is to get back on track mentally.
As he looks at the Huskies this weekend he sees a team which they have established a recent rivalry going back two seasons ago when TRU beat Saskatchewan in a best of three quarterfinal series. “ We played them twice that year and beat them and took them two out of three in the playoffs. The final game was very close 21-19 in the 5th set. Last year in their gym we beat them twice to get into the playoffs and knock them out, with another fifth set—as close as you can get in the sport of volleyball. We were fortunate to be on the top side of those sets. We have developed a rivalry for sure and we want to play them tough.” We have a lot of respect for the U of S program and hope we can add another exciting match to this rivalry.
Teammate Kyle Behiels (1st year, middle, Edmonton, AB) is fourth in service aces per set (0.33). He is one of a number of players who benefitting from increased playing time as the WolfPack look to find the right combination. Hennelly says they are relishing their role so early in their career. “I think the young guys are happy to be on the floor. We are trying to simplify things. We are literally approaching it as first set on Friday, second set on Friday and going from there. If you start to look ahead you are in trouble at any time in this league. The idea is to take these next 10 games and break them into pieces. If you look at it all at once it will crush you. The first piece is the game Friday. If you think about outcomes and think about what happens if you don’t play well: that hasn’t worked. We just need to get back to playing volleyball and enjoy the game.”
Saskatchewan’s top offensive threat is Tyler Epp (4th year, middle, Saskatoon, SK). He is fourth in the Canada West in hitting percentage (.347) and third in blocks per set (1.13).
Hennelly says its crucial time for the entire league at this point: “The bottom line is that every team in Canada West right now has some sort of pressure. Can we get a home date? Can we get into the playoffs? Can we create some space between teams? This is always the crunch time in Canada West. There are very few teams that are completely in and very few teams that are completely out. Everyone else is feeling the pressure. 10 teams are battling for something. It was the same thing as last year.”
Game times are 7:45 pm on Friday and 6:45 pm on Saturday.
WolfPack With Another Playoff Potential Test Facing Huskies
KAMLOOPS — The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack women’s volleyball hit the court at home for the first time in the 2016 calendar year this weekend.
The WolfPack meet up with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in a pair of Canada West matches on Friday and Saturday (Jan15-16th) on the Warner Rentals Court at the Tournament Capital Centre.
Both teams enter the weekend in a four way tie for fifth with records of 6-8.
The WolfPack are coming off a split last weekend at Mount Royal. Coach Chad Grimm expects another tough series. “With four teams tied from fifth to eighth spot it is going to be a battle. I expect Saskatchewan to be tough. They are coming off two losses in Brandon and they will want to get back on track.”
Thompson Rivers showed a lot of character in the Mount Royal series as they rebounded from a straight set defeat on the opening night to take the second match in five sets. “It was a nice bounce back performance,” stated Grimm. “That level of compete and pride on the line was nice to see. I think sometimes, in the past we have had problems rebounding. It was great to see us come up with a gutsy effort on Saturday.”
Grimm looks at his team against Saskatchewan like this: “They have two very good outside hitters who get a lot of volume. They are fairly good all around. They are an athletic squad. They are younger than we are but we are very similar. We both use our outside hitters quite a bit. I think it will come down to who executes better.”
Saskatchewan’s Jennifer Hueser (3rd year, libero, Dalmeny SK) and the WolfPack’s Alyssa Wolf (5th year, libero, South Surrey, BC) are tied for the most digs in the Canada West. Both have 185. Hueser leads in digs per set (3.56) with Wolf third (3.49).
“This is Alyssa’s first full season at the libero position,’ Grimm states. “ She has embraced the role. She is a great example for our team. She works hard in practice and in the gym. She is always trying to get better. That is great for our group. To see that and how it’s paid off on the defensive side of the ball. She has made some pretty big strides. It is nice to see her near the top of the leaders in Canada West.”
TRU’s Iuliia Pakhomenko (4th year, outside hitter, Dontesk, Ukraine) leads the league and the nation in kills (268) and kills per set (4.96).
“Iullia is a dominant force,” Grimm says. “The good thing recently is that she has evolved with her game. She has started to change her shots. I think she has a lot of growth to do. She can generate kills and generate points but she needs reduce her errors. I think in the past she felt she needed to be the one to get all the kills. That was her mindset, which is great. But that puts her in some bad situations. We have seen her evolve and use different shots which is nice. The power she brings to the game is pretty special for our league.”
The coach says while the opposition has been concerned this season with trying to stop Pakhomenko, that strategy has opened up other offensive avenues for the ‘Pack. “It’s up to us now to take advantage of that. We need to spread out our offense more.”
Katie Woo (4th year, setter, Surrey, BC) sits third in assists per set in Canada West (9.54). Saskatchewan’s Jina Barker (5th year, setter, Moose Jaw, SK) is fourth in the league (9.42).
“Katie’s ability to distribute the offense, spotting the oppositions trends and putting our hitters into the best position to score has evolved nicely this year,” Grimm explains. “With teams keying on Iuliia a bit more it is Katies job to move the ball around. It is something that she has been working on. It is evolving and she could get better but has made some big strides so far this year.”
Game time Friday will be 6 pm with Saturday’s match set for 5 pm.
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