Keith Lundgren has been pounding into the heads of his TRU WolfPack women’s volleyball team the importance of taking advantage of opportunities.
How appropriate, then, that the WolfPack should have a great opportunity to gain some ground in Canada West over the next month.
The WolfPack is scheduled to start the second half of its season on Friday and Saturday against the UBC Thunderbirds in Vancouver. TRU is 4-8 and eighth in the 11-team Canada West, only one spot out of a playoff position.
The opportunity to capture its first playoff berth is there for TRU, whose schedule — aside from the UBC doubleheader — is decidedly easier than it was in the first half.
Lundgren said his players weren’t focusing too much on the postseason itself, but admitted that the door may be open.
“We set goals, outcome goals, and making the playoffs did come up,” Lundgren said. “But it’s tricky — if you think too far into the future, it can make it tougher.
“That’s why we talk about the importance of opportunities, and taking advantage of them.”
The WolfPack hasn’t played a conference match since Dec. 3, when it lost in four sets to the visiting Trinity Western Spartans. It played an exhibition match — losing in five sets — against Trinity in Langley last weekend.
The Thunderbirds are 9-1 and first in the conference. TRU will follow up with doubleheaders against the visiting Brandon Bobcats (6-6) and Saskatchewan Huskies (0-10), before finishing the season with two matches against the UBC-OKanagan Heat (2-8) in Kelowna on Feb. 10-11.
“We have a saying as a team: ‘It’s not who you play, it’s how you play,’ ” Lundgren said.
The WolfPack men’s volleyball team also has what appears to be an easy schedule coming up.
The T-Birds (7-3) are the best team the WolfPack will face, while Brandon (5-7) also is in playoff position. Like the WolfPack, the Heat (3-7) and Saskatchewan (1-9) are chasing the top seven.
“For sure, this is easier,” said WolfPack head coach Pat Hennelly. “I was saying right from the very start that these second-half matches would determine a lot for us.
“With UBC, Brandon, Saskatchewan and us all stacking up together, we know 100 per cent that the season will come down to this.”
TRU is hoping to make the playoffs for the sixth straight year — it’s still the only TRU team to have made playoffs — but really hurt its chances with a pair of losses to the Cougars in Regina on Nov. 11 and 12.
The surprising Cougars are 4-8 and tied with the Winnipeg Wesmen for the final playoff spot.
“Depending on how we do in the second half, (losing to Regina) is going to haunt all of us,” Hennelly said. “But we’ve got these next six matches . . . we’ll know how our season’s going to be after those.”
For Lundgren’s women, it was a pretty incredible first half, especially considering TRU played 10 matches against teams ranked in the top 10 in Canada (Calgary no longer is ranked, but was No. 9 when it opened the season at the TCC).
Lundgren said it was a great team effort, including the coaching staff.
“We got better at everything we wanted to get better at,” Lundgren said. “Our strength training really improved thanks to (strength coach) Megann (Rodhe) and Hayley (Hills), my assistant, she’s great.
“She’s fresh out of playing NCAA Div. 1 volleyball, so she knows how to get the athletes fired up.”
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It will be a “retro weekend” for the WolfPack basketball teams, who will be playing their Canada West home games against the T-Birds at TRU Gym on Friday and Saturday.
The WolfPack played at TRU until 2008, before moving across the street to the Tournament Capital Centre.
On Friday and Saturday, the WolfPack will be wearing special warm-up shirts that pay homage to the Cariboo College Chiefs and Gold Rush and the UCC Sun Demons. Any fan wearing memorabilia from the old days will get a discount on their admission, and anyone dressed in clothing from the 1970s and 1980s will earn a discount from the TRU Apparel Store.
Friday’s games are to start at 6 and 8 p.m., with Saturday’s to go at 5 and 7 p.m.
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Diane Schuetze, a fourth-year centre for the WolfPack women’s basketball team, is the CIS female athlete of the week.
Schuetze, a tourism student from Vernon, had a pair of monster games to lead the WolfPack (5-5) to two victories in its return to Canada West action after Christmas.
Schuetze had 29 points in an 84-61 victory over the visiting Wesmen on Friday, before getting 25 points and 14 rebounds in Saturday’s 67-49 victory over the visiting Manitoba Bisons.
She leads Canada West in points (19.6) and rebounds (10.3) per game.
Schuetze had been named the Canada West athlete of the week on Tuesday.
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There are a couple of familiar faces on the UBC men’s roster.
Forward David Wagner, who starred for South Kam before graduating in June, has played in seven of UBC’s eight games, while guard Kamar Burke, who played at TRU from 2006-08, is in his final season of eligibility.