Sick of it all: WolfPack struggles continue

Adam Williams, Sports Editor Ω

Keith Lundgren talks to his team during a timeout against the UBC Thunderbirds Jan. 18. - Photo by Allen Douglas

Keith Lundgren talks to his team during a timeout against the UBC Thunderbirds Jan. 18. – Photo by Allen Douglas

Julia Niemczewska stands at the foot of the court heaving into a garbage can as the rest of her team talks with head coach Keith Lundgren. After a few minutes pass, Niemczewska stands up, wipes the tears from her cheeks and joins the rest of the WolfPack at the bench. The women are already down 2-0 and it looks like the third set will end just as quickly.

Niemczewska has the flu – she pukes not because of a case of nerves, or from over-exerting herself during the course of play. It would have been an easy conclusion to jump to, she and her teammates are going up against the UBC Thunderbirds, the number one team in the country. Nerves and exhaustion would be par for the course.

The game was never going to be easy for the WolfPack, few would have had the audacity to predict anything but a straight-sets sweep. With a record of 13-1, UBC is the far superior team, with more veterans on the roster than TRU has players. Things more or less unfolded as one would have predicted.

“Right now we gotta figure out how to compete,” Lundgren said. “They [the WolfPack] still have a tough time being vulnerable, taking risks. We don’t know very much right now, because we’re so young, so it’s just trying to get them out of their comfort zone a little bit. They like to go in their comfort zone every now and then and that’s when teams go on a roll.”

The match lasted an hour, the WolfPack lost in straight sets (25-10, 25-16 and 25-11). TRU took an early lead in the second, but UBC quickly rebounded. Many of the T-Birds’ points went uncontested by TRU, who struggled to even get a hand on UBC’s attacks.

Lundgren was animated at times throughout the match, particularly during timeouts when speaking with his team. Post-game, he assessed his team as hesitant, afraid of being vulnerable and making the plays necessary.

The WolfPack clearly struggled with on-court communication and Lundgren could be heard throughout the match reminding his players to talk to each other.

“It’s not a concern, but it’s always something we’re working on,” Lundgren said. “Communication’s a big part of the game and we’re talking about that every day, every day.”

Of the 37 points TRU scored on Jan. 18, 22 were on UBC errors (57 per cent). The team saw marginal improvement Saturday, when only 16 of 37 points (43 per cent) came on opposition errors, en route to another straight-sets loss (25-4, 25-17 and 25-16).

This weekend epitomizes what has been a difficult season for the WolfPack. To this point the women won only one set, losing the other 48. The possibility of a winless season is now very real with their final three weekends being played against the fourth-place Mount Royal University Cougars (10-4), the sixth-place University of Calgary Dinos (7-7) and the ninth-place University of Winnipeg Wesman (5-10).

The WolfPack’s next game at the Tournament Capital Centre will be Feb. 2 against Mount Royal University.