Olynyk pleased with WolfPack's first half

MARK HUNTER / Kamloops Daily News
December 8, 2011 01:00 AM

For the first time since joining Canada West in 2005-06, the TRU WolfPack has all four of its teams somewhere near playoff contention at the season's halfway pole.

That makes Ken Olynyk, the WolfPack's director of athletics and recreation, a happy man.

The WolfPack's men's and women's basketball and volleyball teams are in the early stages of their December exams/Christmas break after a frantic first half.

All four teams have recorded multiple victories at this point - it may seem like a dubious distinction but, at the same point in 2010-11, the women's volleyball and men's basketball teams had combined to win one game - and Olynyk is excited for the second half.

"It's been great for us," Olynyk said. "All our teams are in contention and one of the biggest factors is retention. As an institution . . . and as a program, we want to retain our students.

"We're doing that more and it's starting to show in the leadership on our teams."

That leadership is one of the reasons the WolfPack's women's volleyball team has been a pleasant surprise for Olynyk, going 4-8 against tough competition in the first half. TRU, playing in a conference featuring six teams ranked in the CIS's top 10, has doubled its victory total from 2010-11, Keith Lundgren's first as head coach.

"It's been terrific - they've really done a super job," Olynyk said. "Keith has done a good job getting them to believe in themselves and the seniors have laid the foundation for the success they're having."

Another pleasant surprise for Olynyk is the men's basketball team.

Scott Clark, in his second season at TRU, has the WolfPack 4-4, not bad for a team that went 4-20 last season. It should be pointed out that four games is the most any WolfPack men's basketball team has won in one season since TRU joined Canada West.

The WolfPack has been buoyed by the addition of transfer guard Justin King, who some are saying is the best player ever to suit up at TRU.

"Scott's done a really nice job," Olynyk said. "Justin King, he's a great player - as are the other players they have. They're not a deep team, but they have heart.

"I'm really excited about the second half."

The women's basketball team, meanwhile, is 3-5 after an up-and-down start. TRU went 9-15 in 2011-12 (Canada West teams only play 18 games this season) and is looking to make the playoffs for the first time.

Right now the WolfPack is one spot out of the playoffs but, of its remaining 10 games, seven are against teams that are 4-3 or worse.

"I think they're ready to make a lot of noise," Olynyk said. "I predict they'll be in the playoffs and will make a lot of noise."

If one team has had a disappointing start, it's the men's volleyball team, which is 2-10 and in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.

TRU had a difficult schedule in the first half, and will face three teams - Brandon (5-7), UBC-Okanagan (3-7) and Saskatchewan (1-9) with which it is battling for a playoff spot.

"I'm not disappointed," Olynyk said. "I think they'll come on in the second half. They had a few tough matchups, but I expect things will be easier in the second half.

"They can't look at the first half; they should look forward . . . it will be a great challenge."

Olynyk also is excited about the four other teams that play fall seasons. The WolfPack badminton season is in full force, and TRU will play host to the Pacific West Athletic Association (PacWest) championship on Feb. 18-19 and the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championship from Feb. 28 to March 3.

TRU's hockey team, meanwhile, is 7-3-2 and third in the B.C. Intercollegiate League. Olynyk said the team is likely to play host to the league championship tournament, although an official decision isn't expected until Saturday meetings.

"They've been very good," Olynyk said of the hockey players. "Their organization does a good job . . . and I've been to a few games, and it's always a lot of fun."

The soccer teams, meanwhile, haven't been on the pitch for more than a month, but Olynyk is pleased with both, even if the men failed to make the postseason.

"They could have won the PacWest -it came down to the last weekend, and they came up short," he said. "I was happy with the progress they made."

Speaking of progress, the WolfPack women's soccer team won the PacWest title, then went on to finish fourth at the national championship in Quebec.

TRU lost its first game of the season, then was undefeated until its second match at nationals, where it ran into the host team, the F.X. Garneau Elans, who went on to win gold for a second straight year.

"It was awesome. What can I say?" Olynyk said. "We're very proud of them . . . and Tom McManus was coach of the year in the PacWest - and deservedly so."

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Shane Oatway of the WolfPack has been named the BCIHL's defenceman of the month for November.

Oatway, 21, had three assists and was plus-8 as the WolfPack had three victories and a tie in the month.


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