WolfPack splits volleyball season openers

Adam Williams, Sports Editor Ω

“It was really good. Obviously we were a little shaky in the first set there, in front of the big crowd, a lot of guys’ first time playing at TRU, but it was really good.”

Setter Colin Carson’s assessment of the WolfPack’s first match on Oct. 26 was dead on – the team was nervous, but managed to battle through it and secure a commanding win. More than 300 fans came out to watch the action as the ‘Pack took on their regional rivals, the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) Heat, in their season and home opener at the Tournament Capital Centre. The men secured a straight-sets victory, while the women dropped a straight-sets loss.

Nerves characterized both the men’s and women’s matches. The men’s victory came in three straight sets, as they won 25-22, 25-18 and 25-16. TRU secured the momentum after winning a close first and didn’t look back.

“I think that’s always key,” said head coach Pat Hennelly. “You could sense the nerves on both sides of the court, home-opener, new year.

“We talked about that after the timeout, said ‘listen we’re going to play a lot of ball tonight, even if we lose this let’s get back to how we felt last weekend.’ That was a big key for us and I thought we ended that set pretty good.”

The men were led on the court by outside hitter Hardy Wooldridge, who had nine kills and two service aces, as well as Carson, who had 28 assists and 8 digs. Hennelly also had praise for middle Mohamed “Manny” Abdel Rehim’s role in the first set.

“I thought Hardy had a really stable game, both from the service line and back court passing and hitting,” Hennelly said. “Manny was very instrumental for us early, got some big kills…and then went on a serving run himself.

“I thought those two guys showed some leadership when it was a little bit unstable and Colin Carson did a good job of making sure everyone was a part of the offence.”

The women were on the wrong side of a three set match earlier in the evening, as they fell to the Heat 25-15, 25-9 and 25-18. Head coach Keith Lundgren spoke about the nerves and inconsistency that were clear in his team’s play, but pointed out some positives his team could take from the game.

“The numbers from our first set match the numbers, aside from the errors, of their second and third sets,” Lundgren said. “So we just got to keep our numbers up consistently and that’s one thing that we’re working on and going to get good at.”

The women come into this season as a rebuilding club. In a recent poll of coaches around the CIS, the WolfPack women’s volleyball club was predicted to finish dead last in the CIS. Unfortunate as it may be, it’s not necessarily a surprise with a club as young as the WolfPack’s, who have only three returning players. With second year outside hitter Brianne Rauch currently out of the lineup with a shoulder injury, the team on the court is even younger.

“We’re working on court balance,” Lundgren said. “We’re working on being in the right spots, right? So obviously it’s a learning curve with that kind of stuff. I think some of the errors are definitely on our inexperience.”

Both the men and women wrap up the home-and-home series in Kelowna on Oct. 27.