TRU athletic director stands behind volleyball coach

Offers support after 0-22 volleyball season

MARK HUNTER / Kamloops Daily News
February 14, 2013 01:00 AM

Keith Lundgren, head coach of the TRU WolfPack, watches as his team loses a Canada West women's volleyball match to the UBC Thunderbirds at TRU Gym on Jan. 19.

Calling his team's season "unfortunate," TRU director of athletics and recreation Ken Olynyk has thrown a little support behind WolfPack women's volleyball head coach Keith Lundgren.

TRU wrapped up its worst Canada West women's volleyball season on Saturday, losing in three sets to the visiting Winnipeg Wesmen to end up 0-22. The WolfPack, whose roster featured eight healthy players, won only three of 69 sets.

It was a far cry from 2011-12, when Lundgren took TRU to the Canada West playoffs after a 9-11 regular season.

But when asked Wednesday if there might be a coaching change in the future, Olynyk seemed to support Lundgren, whom Olynyk said has a year remaining on his contract.

"I wouldn't want to have one season dictate what is going to deem a good or a bad coach," Olynyk said. "All of our (Canada West) coaches have struggled at some point, and we've stayed with them."

Olynyk pointed to women's basketball head coach Scott Reeves, who went 9-77 over his first four seasons at TRU, but now has the WolfPack (15-6) in the playoffs for the second straight season and looking as though it could contend for a spot at the CIS championship.

Olynyk, in calling the women's volleyball season "unfortunate," pointed out that two veterans - Brianne Rauch and Morgan Kolasa - missed the season due to injury, while a pair of European recruits never made it over to Kamloops.

That left the WolfPack with eight healthy players, six of whom were right out of high school.

"It's not necessarily not good preparation (from Lundgren)," Olynyk said. "But some players don't come and injuries . . . and you go from 12 (players) to 10 or nine, then all of the sudden, your roster's at eight."

It was always going to be a tough season, especially after three players - Kelly Asleson, Amanda Frayne and Vanessa Wiebe - off the 2011-12 team graduated, and another, setter Kara Twomey, went home to be with family. But Lundgren didn't bring back European libero Sara Pettersson and outside hitter Anne Weiss, leaving a gaping hole defensively. Pettersson and Weiss were 1-2 in digs for the WolfPack in 2011-12.

TRU ended up with a solid first-year setter in Katie Woo, and also got decent offensive production out of third-year middle Katarina Osadchuk and rookies Julia Niemczewska, Rachel Murray, Carly Nelson and Kristen Giesbrecht.

But the WolfPack's biggest problem was passing the ball - other teams dominated with tough serves and big swings and, all too often, the ball didn't end up in Woo's hands.

"We ended up in a situation where we had five freshmen starting," Olynyk said. "That's tough. You're very fortunate if you have one very good first-year player, like the men's (volleyball) team had in Brad Gunter (in 2011-12). But you're not going to get three or four players like that."

The numbers tell the story - TRU was swept in 19 of its matches, and never made it to a fifth set.

In 13 of its 69 sets, the WolfPack scored 10 or fewer points. To put that in perspective, the Calgary Dinos, who went 11-11 to get the last playoff spot, never scored fewer than 13 points in a set. The WolfPack averaged fewer than 15 points per set this season, after scoring more than 20 per set the previous season.

Lundgren couldn't be reached at his office Wednesday, but was quoted in a news release after Saturday's loss as calling the season "a growing process."

"We have to build that chemistry over time," Lundgren added. "We are proud of (the players). They are emotional and young. They are going to be together for the next three to five years. I think they are embracing the future."

The players will have a chance to talk to Olynyk over the next week, either directly or by written submission.

"We want to look at all aspects," Olynyk said, "not just if they won or lost."

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