Pat Hennelly got the atmosphere he wanted and, more importantly, he got the victory he needed.
TRU's head coach watched as the WolfPack defeated the UBC Thunderbirds in four sets (25-22, 30-28, 22-25, 30-28) in a Canada West men's volleyball match Friday. The match was played at TRU Gym, which is located about 50 yards from the WolfPack's regular home, the Tournament Capital Centre.
And although the two buildings are close geographically, they are nowhere near alike in atmosphere.
Friday was proof positive - the smaller, louder TRU Gym provided the perfect venue for a slugfest. Every cheer, heckle or boo was heard, and there was no doubt each player felt the energy of the crowd. At the TCC, a lot of noise gets sucked up in the building's incredible volume.
"A barnburner in the old barn - it was awesome," said Hennelly of the WolfPack's home before the 2007-08 season. "If we lose that game, we lose that game - but we played with some emotion and intensity, a sense of urgency."
Members of the WolfPack baseball team, the biggest supporters (by far) of TRU athletics, made life miserable for the UBC players and coaches, spending most of the night chanting and shouting and heckling.
But it was two of Hennelly's foreign players who got the biggest cheers - Daniel Eikeland Rod of Norway and Philip Ozari of Denmark.
Rod, a late substitution, made a smooth dig on a tough Jarrid Ireland spike, setting the table for Ozari's match-winning kill a few seconds later.
"I still can't believe Daniel made that dig," Hennelly said. "It was a pretty sweet way to end it for a guy I subbed in late in the game."
The victory lifted the WolfPack to 6-9 and dropped UBC to 9-6. But it also made things easier as the eighth-place WolfPack tries to capture one of the conference's seven playoff spots.
"We helped ourselves tremendously tonight," Hennelly said. "We didn't lose ground, and that's what's important from here on out."
If the match was anything, it was a coming-out party for Ozari, a 6-foot-4 outside hitter. He was terrific, pounding 15 kills and three aces.
Not only did he hit the go-ahead and winning kills in the fourth set, he also had the winning ace in the 30-28 second set.
"It was very, very nice, very atmospheric," said Ozari, who missed time earlier this season with shoulder and finger injuries. "There was a very good spirit on the court and the crowd . . . really carried our team through the game."
Brad Gunter also was stellar for the WolfPack, hitting 16 kills, while Colin Carson had 42 set assists, 10 digs, two aces and three digs. Hardy Wooldridge also had eight kills.
Ireland was phenomenal, leading the T-Birds with 17 kills. Milan Nikic had 39 set assists.
If they have anything left in their tanks, these teams will tangle again today, 6:45 p.m., at the TRU Gym. It will be Alumni Night, which is - technically - the reason the WolfPack is playing at the old barn.
But as nice as the modern TCC is, it's no secret that Hennelly would move back into the TRU Gym in a heartbeat, if given the chance.
When Ozari hit the kill to win the match, the gym erupted in cheering - you would have thought it was a playoff game.
"This crowd in the TCC, it's something you wouldn't notice, but in here, it's loud," Hennelly said. "It makes people get excited.
"When it's louder, the average fan cheers more and the loud fan cheers more and it raises the intensity.
"It feels like playoffs."