The WolfPack men’s volleyball team played host to the Trinity Western University Spartans and the University of British Columbia-Okanagan Heat in an exhibition tournament this past weekend, finishing both second and fourth in one of their last remaining tune-ups before the start of the 2015-16 Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) season.
The team split into two separate squads for the tournament, with head coach Pat Hennelly taking every opportunity to give the younger players on his team more experience by putting most of them onto the same team known as the ‘Pack, while the veterans of the program stayed together on the other team.
Getting the younger players experience in pre-season is something that Hennelly is focusing on throughout the WolfPack’s exhibition schedule. “Nothing beats competition. You get into practice and you get in a rut, so you get a truer sense of the player when you get to see him out on the floor competing,” he said.
The ‘Pack’s fourth-place finish at the tournament came at the hands of UBCO, who defeated them in straight sets in the battle for third place. It was a well-contested match, however, and it’s an encouraging sign for the future of the program that the inexperienced ‘Pack squad was able to keep things close with a full strength Heat team.
The tournament was a chance for revenge for the other TRU team, as they matched up against a TWU team that eliminated them from the playoffs in the first round last year. One of the problems for TRU in that playoff matchup was that they didn’t officially qualify for the playoffs until the last weekend of the season, having had to go on an incredible eight game winning streak just to get in, which left the team burnt out when it came time for the postseason.
According to Hennelly, “The amount of energy you spend on having to get into the playoffs takes away from some of the energy and preparation you’re going to have when the playoffs start. I think the guys were ready to fight, I just don’t think the preparation was as good as it could have been.” Revenge was not meant to be however, as TRU dropped the first place game to the Spartans three sets to one.
Brandon Hewwing led the way for TRU with 15 kills in the match, and he is just one of the veteran leaders on this team that Hennelly expects to play a big role for TRU this year: “Brandon Hewwing, Brad Gunter and Graham Stoliker, all fifth-year guys. Daniel [Eikeland] Rod is in his fourth year. That’s a real good core of guys.”
Men’s volleyball is one of TRU’s more successful programs since making the leap into CIS play and Hennelly attributes that success to three key aspects: recruiting, success breeding success and support from the athletic department. Hennelly has used these three keys to make sure that his team is in the fight for a playoff spot each and every year, so even though he is describing this season as a “partial rebuild,” you can be sure that, come February, the WolfPack will be playing in more meaningful games than the one they dropped to Trinity Western last Friday night.
The WolfPack’s home opener takes place Friday. Oct. 23 when they take on the MacEwan University Griffins.