Even the TRU WolfPack was amazed at how well the UBC Thunderbirds were digging up balls on Sunday.
The T-Birds beat the WolfPack in four sets (25-23, 25-20, 16-25, 25-20) in the final of the McDonald's International Classic exhibition men's volleyball tournament. The four-team event was held over two days at the Tournament Capital Centre.
UBC won the final match mostly on defence, as it dug an inordinate amount of balls that seemed destined to land for WolfPack points. Whenever that happened, TRU's players found themselves standing around and watching.
"I've got to give credit to UBC - in the first two sets, they dug a lot of hard hit balls," said WolfPack head coach Pat Hennelly. "When that happens, certain guys are on their heels, like 'I can't believe that shot got dug.'
"That's a good lesson at this time of year . . ."
TRU, which is 5-7 in Canada West and ranked No. 10 in Canada, will try to use that lesson on Jan. 11-12, when it heads to Saskatoon to play the Saskatchewan Huskies in its return to league action.
Some of the 100 or so fans in attendance Sunday must have brought along rally caps, because the WolfPack and Thunderbirds engaged in more than a few long, exciting points.
Regardless of the point, UBC never let a ball hit the floor without a fight and, after something of a slow start, the WolfPack did the same in the last two sets.
As well as the T-Birds played, head coach Richard Schick felt the WolfPack won many of those long battles.
"There were a lot of big points, a lot of multi-touch rallies," said Schick, whose squad is 8-4 in Canada West and ranked No. 6 in Canada. "I think TRU won the majority of them. . . . It might have been 50-50, but that comes from hard work - TRU's a scrappy group, and we want to be scrappy, too."
After stumbling through the first two sets, the WolfPack came to life in the third set, hitting 29 per cent and dominating throughout.
UBC picked up its play in the fourth, and was ahead 15-13 when it put away the WolfPack for good. A Thunderbirds kill attempt went long, and the officials ruled that it had gone off the hands of a WolfPack defender, giving UBC a 16-13 lead.
Hennelly was furious - he felt the ball went straight out, and should have been a WolfPack point - and shouted at the head official before and after the technical timeout. The outburst seemed to shake the WolfPack, which lost six of the following eight points.
"The fourth set was great, and I figured there was a call that was the wrong call," Hennelly said. "Maybe I should have had more composure, but it's frustrating."
Brad Gunter had 15 kills and three aces to lead the WolfPack, and Mohamed Rehim ended with eight kills. Setter Colin Carson had 33 assists and six kills, while Matt Krueger had 17 digs and Stuart Richey had 11.
Jarrid Ireland had 13 kills for UBC, which got 11 kills from Noah Derksen and 37 assists and 10 digs from Milan Nikic.
The WolfPack had beaten the Dalhousie Tigers in straight sets (25-15, 25-15, 25-12) earlier Sunday. Jesse Bazergui had 13 kills for the WolfPack, with Casey Knight counting 11. Graham Stoliker ended with 31 set assists.
On Saturday, the WolfPack defeated the Pepperdine Waves in five sets (13-25, 25-19, 18-25, 25-21, 15-12). Gunter had 16 kills, while Carson had 30 set assists and six kills. Krueger dug 15 balls.
All in all, Hennelly was pleased with a solid weekend of volleyball.
"We set a goal of being ready for close matches, knowing everything was going to be tight," he said. "We're in a playoff run, so I appreciate our guys sticking in all of those matches."
The TRU WolfPack lost 98-62 to the Western Washington Vikings in an exhibition men's basketball game Sunday in Bellingham.
The WolfPack is scheduled to get back to Canada West play on Saturday against the UBC-Okanagan Heat at the Tournament Capital Centre. The Vikings are the defending NCAA Division II champions.
TRU, which trailed 40-27 at the half, got 11 points from Blaz Bozinovic and 10 from Brett Rouault.
"(The Vikings) are the defending NCAA Division II champs and a very, very good basketball team," said WolfPack head coach Scott Clark in a news release. "We played with them for about 30 minutes but then we didn't look after the ball and got into some trouble."
The WolfPack women's basketball team wrapped up an exhibition trip to Arizona with an 83-62 victory over the Rocky Mountain Community College Battlin' Bears on Saturday.
TRU was 3-0 on the trip, in which it played against NAIA schools. The WolfPack will return to Canada West action on Saturday against the visiting UBC-Okanagan Heat.
Diane Schuetze had 24 points and 14 rebounds to lead the WolfPack over the Battlin' Bears. Jen Ju had 16 points, and Tracy Kocs added 13. Taiysa Worsfold scored 10 points.