The TRU WolfPack women's volleyball team may be short on numbers and short on experience but, according to middle Katarina Osadchuk, it's big on "competitive drive."
The WolfPack is scheduled to open its Canada West season on Friday against the Calgary Dinos at the Tournament Capital Centre. Game time is 6 p.m.
It appears as though it will be another rebuilding campaign for the WolfPack, which went 2-16 and failed to make the playoffs last season.
The WolfPack's roster comprises 13 players, only six of whom were wearing TRU orange and black in 2010-11, and yet, no one seems to be worried about a lack of experience.
"(The rookies) are all very good athletes," said outside hitter Amanda Frayne, who joins middle Vanessa Wiebe and outside Kelly Asleson as the WolfPack's fifth-year players. "In the years to come, they'll get even better . . . but even now, I think they'll contribute to a good season."
WolfPack head coach Keith Lundgren hit the pavement hard to find players in the offseason, and was rewarded with seven recruits from all corners of the globe.
Among them are outsides Sara Pettersson of Sweden, Anne Weiss of Germany, Brianne Rauch of Kimberley, Calgary's Morgan Kalasa and Carly Nelson of Victoria, along with middle Mariah Williamson of South Kamloops and libero/outside Ilaina Hecimovic of Burnaby.
It's a young team, but it's a competitive one, says Osadchuk, a second-year middle from Australia.
"Our competitive drive stands out," said Osadchuk, who played for the Australian senior women's national team over the summer. "We seem to be playing well as a team. We have the capability to do everything well - everybody's in it, and everybody wants to win."
Lundgren lost his first 10 matches as a CIS head coach, but picked up victories over the visiting Saskatchewan Huskies on Jan. 21 and 22.
It's the rookies, along with veterans like Frayne, Osadchuk, Asleson and setter Kara Twomey, who have Lundgren excited about his second season behind the WolfPack bench.
He said he feels much better about things heading into this season, especially considered he has had time to set up the campaign.
"It's a little different when you get to plan it," said Lundgren, who was hired late and didn't have time to put much of a stamp on the team. "Last year, coming in in June, it's pretty hard to plan a season. We planned it this year so we had a strong bunch of exhibition matches and . . . we all learned a lot."
In 18 matches last season, the WolfPack only won 10 sets, while losing 50. And while half of that team didn't return, there has to be questions surrounding a team that wasn't exactly competitive in 2010-11.
"The expectations are the same - make playoffs, that's the focus," Lundgren said. "We've got a talented group, but we're young. We do some great things, but then we do some things that we need to work on."
The players are optimistic, especially after a preseason in which the WolfPack went 3-5 against Canada West teams. But TRU has a tough schedule right away, with matches against Calgary, which is ranked No. 9 in the country, at Alberta (No. 2), at Regina (unranked), against Manitoba (No. 4), at Winnipeg (No. 6) and against Trinity Western (No. 10) - all before Christmas.
"We're expecting to perform a little better - we've been struggling a few years," Frayne said. "The expectations, with the players we have, are realistically higher, and I think we'll have a really good season because of that."
JUST NOTES: TRU also is at home to Calgary on Saturday at 5 p.m. . . . The women's matches always will be the early starts this season - last season, TRU toyed with the idea of putting the men in the early match on some nights. . . . The UBC Thunderbirds, whom the WolfPack will take on in its first matches of the second half, on Jan. 13-14, are ranked No. 1 in Canada after winning the CIS championship in March. . . . TRU will play 20 matches this season, including two in Kelowna against the UBC-Okanagan Heat, which has joined Canada West this season. . . . Joining Lundgren as assistant coaches are Hayley Hills, a former player at Eastern Washington University, and Jo-Anne Loader, a local coach. Megann Rodhe, a world-class hammer thrower, is the team's strength coach.