Nathan Crosby, Sports Editor Ω
For the first time since TRU joined CIS women’s volleyball, the WolfPack is heading to the post season.
The team finished with a school record, nine wins and 11 losses and will play Alberta in the first round.
The ‘Pack head to Edmonton as winners of five of their last six and will measure themselves against one of the best in the West.
The 14-6 Pandas had their way with TRU back in the first week of November, beating the ‘Pack twice in straight sets, but should expect a more mature team this weekend.
“None of them will have played in a match like this,” TRU head coach Keith Lundgren said.
“There’s going to be a lot of people and the energy is going to be tremendous from the fans, Laurie (Pandas coach Laurie Eisler) is going to have the team geared up.
“It’s going to be fun, I’m really excited to be in that atmosphere and compete with them.”
It will be the first playoff game for fifth year veterans Amanda Frayna, Kelly Asleson and Vanessa Wiebe.
Their guidance will be crucial for this young squad that will likely start rookies Brianne Rauch, Sarah Pettersson and Anne Weiss, according to Lundgren.
“Everything is going to be a learning experience, they’re a young squad and luck is a residue of design,” he said.
“I thought we earned what we got and it’s going to be great for next year to have these experience the playoffs.”
The Pandas finished second in the Canada West and ranked first in serving aces, second in hitting percentage and sixth in kills.
Two of their top hitters, Jenice Warkentin and Jaki Ellis, are ranked first and third respectively in hitting percentage. Freshman Alena Omelchenko is fourth in kills.
“Their right side is very good, she’s tall and hits a good ball and serves well and we have to control that best we can. When they’re in system, they have a lot of good hitters, so it’s going to be about getting them out of their system as best we can,” Lundgren said.
“If they make some mistakes, we have to make sure we’re playing efficient.”
The WolfPack as a team rank fourth in blocks in the Canada West, thanks to six-foot-three middle Katarina Osadchuk and her versatile presence. She is ranked second in blocks. Captain Kelly Asleson leads TRU players in kills and is ranked in the top 20. Setter Kara Twomey finished ranked sixth in assists.
Coach Lundgren attributes this season’s success not only to the players but the people behind the scenes.
“When I got hired, I said it would be about the people we had around us who are going to make this thing work,” he said.
“Now, we have a great support staff that are very consistent and to me that has been the biggest component on why this has worked this year.”
TRU finished off the season on the road at UBCO, winning 3-2 on Feb. 10 and losing 3-2 on Feb. 11.
The Feb. 10 game turned out to be the one that got them into the playoffs, and it was a close call. The ‘Pack were down 2-1 before rallying behind to win the game in five sets.
“We were down and we showed a lot of character and statistically we didn’t play very well but we fought,” Lundgren said.
“For me that’s the biggest part, the compete aspect. When we compete, we have great talent and we can do very well.”
TRU and Brandon both finished with a 9-11 record, but the ‘Pack win the tiebreaker based on the amount of sets they’ve won and lost.
Whatever happens this weekend in the City of Champions, nothing can take away the banner year the women’s volleyball team had.