Pack ready for playoffs
As the final set drew to a close in Saturday’s match at the Tournament Capital Centre (TCC) between the TRU WolfPack and the Winnipeg Wesmen, tempers flared and the teams exchanged words not fit for publication.
That type of intensity will only heighten in the playoffs and TRU head coach Pat Hennelly said his young team, which hosts the UBC Thunderbirds (7-9) this weekend, will have to meet the challenge.
“In every sport, you talk about showing the emotion and upping the intensity in playoffs,” said Hennelly, who has led the Pack (7-9) to four Canada West playoff berths and three CIS championship playoff berths in five years as TRU’s head coach.
“That stuff is important. If you don’t do that, you can get beat pretty easy.”
No longer can graduated Pack members Behlul Yavasgel and Robin Schoebel be relied on to spark the Pack when they need an emotional lift.
New on-court leaders will have to emerge in the playoffs, when the Pack goes on the road in search of Canadian Interuniversity Sports glory.
Hennelly said Colin Carson, Spencer Reed, Ryan Talsma, Alex Davis and Kevin Tillie have all shown leadership potential throughout the season, but the Pack’s bench boss is interested to see who steps up when the season is on the line.
“It’s an unknown,” Hennelly said. “How we’re going to react to playoffs is another story.”
Another unknown is which team TRU will meet in the first round of the Canada West playoffs in a best-of-three series, the winner of which moves on to the Canada West final four.
The results of this weekend’s Canada West matches involving playoff teams will determine the Pack’s first-round opponents.
Hennelly expects either Trinity Western University (TWU) (11-5), Alberta (15-1) or Manitoba (11-5) to emerge as the Pack’s first-round prey.
Avoiding Alberta in the first round would not be a terrible thing, considering the Golden Bears swept the Pack in late November at the TCC.
“If I had to look at it from a mental outlook, I would definitely look at Manitoba and Trinity as two teams that we have proven we can not only compete with, but we’ve proven we can beat.”
In November, the Pack split a weekend series against TWU in Langley, winning the first of two matches in five sets (19-25, 26-24, 23-25, 25-19, 15-13).
TRU also split a series with Manitoba in November, winning the second match in five sets (25-22, 22-25, 25-21, 22-25, 15-9).
Carson, a second-year setter from Prince George, is looking forward to playing playoff volleyball regardless of who the Pack’s opponent is, but a showdown with Manitoba would suit him just fine.
“We’ve had quite a bit of success against Manitoba in the past couple years, so I think that would be a pretty good matchup for us,” Carson said.
“But really, I don’t think we’re scared of anyone. I think we have the ability to beat anyone in the league.
“To win nationals, which really is our goal, we’ll have to go through everyone, so it’s not like we have too much of a preference.”
The Pack host the Thunderbirds tonight (Feb. 11) at the TCC at 7:45 p.m and on Saturday, Feb. 12, at 6:45 p.m.
TRU and UBC, which are tied for sixth in the Canada West standings, are jostling for playoff position.
If the Pack wins the series, they will likely face TWU or Manitoba in the first round.
Should the Pack lose, a meeting with Alberta is probable.