Adam Williams, Sports Editor Ω
The WolfPack men’s volleyball team got a taste of international competition Thursday, as they faced Argentina’s under-21 national team in an exhibition match. The ‘Pack lost in three straight sets – 25-21, 25-18 and 25-11 – never fully recovering after falling behind in the first set.
“First set, I thought we had it,” said WolfPack head coach Pat Hennelly following the game. “We had a nice lead, came out and surprised them with our blocking. But Argentina made a great adjustment…I’m not surprised in that sense, they’ve been training for a long time and this is our first two weeks, but it’s a great lesson now.”
The Argentinean team is on its way to Langley, B.C. in order to participate in the U23 Pan American Men’s Volleyball Cup. It’s a group that has been training together for five months and faced off against a number of teams in South America before coming to North America, where they have been playing exhibition matches on their way to Langley. They are strong group lead by captain Gonzalo Quiroga – who had 30 of Argentina’s 75 kills Thursday – a powerful player that the WolfPack were unable to adjust to.
Argentina is one of the favourites heading into the Pan Am Volleyball Cup, ranked second in the world, even though their team is an under-21 squad that will be playing against under-23 opponents. That said, their win against the WolfPack had some flaws and the team still has some kinks to work out if they hope to medal next weekend against world-class opponents.
“The attitude,” said Argentina’s team manager Osvaldo Celia, when asked why his team came out slow in the first set. “Ya know, the beginning, yesterday – good play. Today, they [begin] thinking this match is easy, never the match is easy. The thing that you play well and the opposite play so-so. Today, the university play very well in the first set and our team don’t play. It’s a different importance.”
The WolfPack will continue their preparation for the regular season, which opens on Nov. 2 in Brandon, Man. The team looked strong in the early going, but problems started to emerge as the match progressed. As the third set came to a close the ‘Pack looked overpowered. They battled miscommunication and errors throughout the match and saw their team attack percentage fall from .294 in the first set to -.071 in the third. While those numbers may seem disconcerting, it’s important to look at them with some perspective.
“We’re two weeks in and we do have new guys out here,” Hennelly said. “There’s definitely some communication. I think you see us at points and there’s no communication problems, so maybe just a little lack of confidence in those situations and that always manifests in communication.”
The WolfPack men’s volleyball team will play their first home game Nov. 16 at the Tournament Capital Centre.