Pat Hennelly says WolfPack men's volleyball denied by a flawed system

By Earl Seitz
March 13, 2019 - 1:17pm Updated: March 13, 2019 - 5:59pm

KAMLOOPS — USports men's volleyball championships are this weekend — without the TRU WolfPack, and that's not sitting well with head coach Pat Hennelly.

Hennelly puts the blame on what he calls a flawed system that determines rankings and at-large for wild card entries for nationals.

WolfPack men's volleyball pulled off one of the biggest upsets in its Canada West history when it took down favoured Alberta in two straight on the Golden Bears court in the conference quarter-finals.

Now here it is national championship week — while Alberta is there, the WolfPack sit home.

"Here's something where we won and went home, and they lost and went on," says WolfPack head coach Pat Hennelly.  "Why are we going to have a Canada West playoffs if it doesn't have that value."

It's all based on something called the VRS, the Volleyball Ranking System. It's a complicated mathematical formula, one with many variables, one that doesn't always reward teams for playoff performance.

"We took on the task of going there twice and beating them (Alberta)," says Hennelly. "We win, but based on the mathematical formula over the whole year of the results they're still a better team than us and that's what they use for national wild cards."

"Well I'm not very happy about it either," says TRU Athletic Director Curtis Atkinson. "I think it's really disappointing when you look at sport in general when you try to apply a mathematical formula to a limited body of work that doesn't put enough emphasis on playoff results, I think that's a problem."

This is the first year the Volleyball Ranking System was used to determine national rankings and wild cards. An obviously flawed system. It's like if it was the Stanley Cup playoffs. Beat a team in the quarter-finals, but then that team is told 'you go on to the Stanley Cup final' while the team that beats that team goes home.  

"Playoffs should be everything." says Pat Hennelly. "Look at the Blazers, scrapping to get into the playoffs. 'OK Kamloops, you got in the playoffs, you upset the number one seed, but they're still the number one seed, they're going to keep going on. Why did you get dressed up to go into the playoffs?'"

Conference differences of what the championship berths should look like opened the door for the VRS to be pushed through before this season. It was something the WolfPack athletic department voted against from the outset.   Dialogue has already started on changing a system that has a glaring weakness.

"We did a wonderful job in playoffs. Pat prepared his team to perform at the right time. Our athletes performed at the right time when it matters most," says Athletic Director Curtis Atkinson. "The system, I believe, failed us. I believe there is an appetite to change. I think it's a little bit embarassing for university sport to see that."

"These are a group that performed at a high level when it mattered most. It really penalized them in an unfortunate way."

"I think that we all agree that the spirit of sport is performing well in the playoffs and advancing and we did that, and I feel it was a disservice to that group."