Women’s volleyball bounced from playoffs

WolfPack women fall in the first round of Canada West playoffs

Alina Sopizhuk plays the ball during TRU’s first round playoff loss to Trinity Western. (Scott Stewart)

Alina Sopizhuk plays the ball during TRU’s first round playoff loss
to Trinity Western. (Scott Stewart)

The WolfPack women had their 2015-16 season come to an end this past week, when they dropped two games in a row to the Trinity Western University (TWU) Spartans.

After finishing the regular season in sixth place in the Canada West conference of CIS volleyball, the ‘Pack was always going to be in a tough spot in the playoffs, having to play TWU in a best-of-three series on their home court in Langley. TWU finished the season in third place in Canada West and was ranked the first in the nation for three weeks earlier in the season.

The ‘Pack came into the match up with some momentum, however. They played their last regular season games against TWU and managed to win one of the two matches, knocking TWU out of the number one spot in the nation.

“Proving to ourselves that we could beat them was a big step for us. I think showing them that we’re not just going to go in there, roll over and take a beating is also important. Definitely a confidence booster. Any time you can beat the number one team in the country, you show yourselves that you can do that and there’s no reason you can’t do it again,” said TRU head coach Chad Grimm.

The ‘Pack came out and put that momentum to good use Thursday night, stunning the hometown fans at the Langley Events Centre by taking the first set by a score of 25–21. But the wheels began to fall off for the ‘Pack after that. The blocking game from TWU really picked up and the ‘Pack failed to counter it. TWU won the next three sets comfortably, taking the first match three sets to one.

Friday night followed almost the exact same pattern for TRU, they came out strong in the first set and were able to settle their nerves by taking the first set 25–22. Just like the night before, TWU was able to regroup and win the next three sets to take the match and the series but the ‘Pack showed a lot more fight in this defeat. They kept all of the sets close and made TWU work for every point right up until the end.

Despite the loss, it is impossible to classify this season as anything other than a success for the team. They made the playoffs for just the second time in school history and the days of going entire seasons without recording a win are well and truly behind the program.

“It’s nice to see some forward momentum with the team, for the girls that have been here for a while to taste some success. It’s nice to see the culture of the team get to a place where we are a competitive team, we feel that we belong and that we can beat anybody in the country if we play our own match,” Grimm said.

The defeat also marked the end of the CIS volleyball careers of four of TRU’s players, Krista Hogewoning, Brianne Rauch, Alyssa Wolf and Katie Woo.

Hogewoning and Wolf are both players that began their volleyball careers at different schools before making the switch to TRU, beginning an influx of experienced talent that helped turn the program’s fortunes around.

Hogewoning was second on the team in kills this year and “a big piece of our success,” Grimm said.

Wolf played libero for the ‘Pack and along with leading the team in digs she was a captain, as well.

Rauch and Woo were both with TRU throughout some difficult times for the ‘Pack, and are part of a veteran core that was able to pull the team out of its slump and back into contention.

Rauch has been a “big leader for us, a big team player and she’s played a lot of different positions for us,” according to Grimm.

Woo was the team’s starting setter, and was able to put up some outstanding numbers in her final year with the program, recording 804 assists in the year.

“The growth that she’s shown this year has been tremendous. To be one of the top five girls in the conference in assists and help lead our team to the playoffs has been really important,” Grimm said.