WolfPack men making noise, but schedule getting tougher

MARK HUNTER / Kamloops Daily News
November 8, 2012 01:00 AM

Even head coach Pat Hennelly is uncertain whether the TRU WolfPack men's volleyball team's hot start is the first step in its return to prominence in Canada West.

He certainly hopes it is.

The WolfPack is 3-1 through its first two weekends in Canada West. Unranked among CIS teams to start the season, TRU rose to No. 10 after an opening sweep of the UBC-Okanagan Heat and then to No. 9 after last weekend's split with the host Brandon Bobcats.

All signs indicate that the WolfPack is on its way back to the level it was at when it made the playoffs every season between 2006-07 and 2010-11. TRU missed the postseason in 2011-12, finishing last in the conference with a 3-17 record.

"I think we're on a better track," Hennelly said Wednesday. "We had a great win against Calgary, who were highly ranked, in the home-opener last year, then things went south.

"So far, so good. We're on track, I think."

It has been a solid season all-around for the WolfPack.

It started in the preseason, when TRU won matches over two ranked teams - the UBC Thunderbirds and Manitoba Bisons - in winning the UBC Thunderball Tournament in Vancouver. Including that tournament, the WolfPack has only dropped two of its last eight matches - and four of those matches were against nationally ranked opponents.

"We're much more cohesive as a team this year, compared to last year," said WolfPack middle Nic Balazs. "The major struggling point last season was that we couldn't bond and work toward the same goal, and this year already we're really working together."

Hennelly has been "very pleased" with the start, and with how the team is getting contributions from everyone.

Sure, the play of second-year outside Brad Gunter, second-year middle Mohamed Rehim and transfer outside Hardy Wooldridge stands out, but everyone has helped out on the attack.

Hennelly especially likes what his middles have done.

"Three of our middles have done a good job," he said. "Nic, (Rehim) and Jacob (Tricarico) have all stepped in and done a good job.

"That adds balance to the offence, and it doesn't matter which sport it is, if you have a balanced offence, you're much harder to stop."

What's bringing it all together so far is setter Colin Carson, who is fourth in the conference with 9.60 assists per set.

"When you look at balanced (attack) stats, that's coming from Carson," Hennelly said. "It's no different than basketball player getting lots of assists or quarterback hitting multiple receivers.

"He's trying to get the best from everyone."

As rosy as life is right now for the WolfPack, it's going to get a whole lot tougher in the weeks to come.

TRU is off to Langley to play the Trinity Western Spartans on Friday and Saturday, before taking on the Alberta Golden Bears at the Tournament Capital Centre on Nov. 16-17. The following weekend, TRU will travel to Winnipeg to play the Manitoba Bisons on Nov. 22-23.

The Golden Bears (4-0) currently are ranked No. 1 in Canada. Trinity Western (3-1) is No. 2, and the Bisons (3-0) are tied for third with the McMaster Marauders.

Hennelly's goal the whole season has been to finish the first half of the season - 12 matches before Christmas - at .500 or better. In order for that to happen, TRU will have to win at least one of the next six against the top three teams in Canada.

"It's a grind," Hennelly said. "Right now, because of our three wins already, winning one out of six would put us in a good spot to be .500 at the end of the semester.

"But Trinity has some injuries and we had some success against Manitoba last year and at Thunderball, so we're looking for splits on the road."

Balazs, a 6-foot-5, 19-year-old Prince George native, doesn't seem worried.

"I try not to think about who they are or what they're ranked," he said. "If anything, they're more worried because they have something to prove.

"Being the underdog is almost an advantage. . . . It's a bigger deal when (the favourites) lose."

* * *

The WolfPack women's volleyball team has a date with the No. 1 team in the country, the Trinity Western Spartans.

TRU is 0-4. The Spartans, who call Langley home, are 3-1.

* * *

After winning its opening two games, the WolfPack women's basketball team will head to Vancouver to play the Thunderbirds on Friday and Saturday.

Both teams are 2-0, but the T-Birds are No. 10 in the CIS rankings.

* * *

The WolfPack men's hoopsters also are off to UBC for games Friday and Saturday.

TRU is 1-1, while the Thunderbirds are 2-0. UBC is ranked No. 2 in the CIS.

* * *

Longueil, Que., is the destination for the WolfPack cross-country squad, which is sending runners to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championships.

TRU will be led by female runners Melissa Ryeo and Rolena DeBruyn, and male runners Evan Hall, Chris Curl and Mark Carolan. The WolfPack is ranked No. 15 in the country.

mhunter@kamloopsnews.ca


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