The TRU WolfPack men’s and women’s volleyball teams had very different results after the 2011-2012 Canada West campaign was in the books, but both programs would like to end up in the same place this time around — the Canada West post-season.
Both teams open their seasons at the Tournament Capital Centre on Friday, Oct. 26, against the UBC-Okanagan Heat. The women get underway at 6 p.m., with the men to follow at 7:45 p.m.
For the first time in franchise history, head coach Keith Lundgren and the WolfPack women made the playoffs last season, while for only the second time in his seven-year tenure as the men’s coach, Pat Hennelly was unable to lead his team past the regular season.
“It left a bad taste in our mouths,” said Hennelly, whose team finished 3-17, last in the Canada West men’s ranks.
“I don’t think anyone wants to be last place again.”
For Lundgren, a second-straight berth in the playoffs would be a real accomplishment considering the number of young players on his roster.
“We’re girls playing against women,” said Lundgren, who’s entering his third season as the Pack’s bench boss.
“We’ll get back [to the playoffs], I’m just not sure when.
“The goal is to get to a national championship. This is Day 1.”
Katarina Osadchuk, a 6-foot-3 middle from Brisbane, Australia, is the only returning player who logged meaningful minutes last season.
She is looking forward to finding out how the new recruits react to regular-season competition.
“It’s always nice to have fresh, young talent,” said Osadchuk, whose team finished 9-11 last season.
“We’ve got new fire, new fight and new competitiveness.”
But, will it be enough to get them back to the post-season?
There were supposed to be several veterans returning to the fold, but outside hitters Brianne Rauch, from Kimberley, and Morgan Kolasa, from Calgary, are out indefinitely with injuries.
Carly Nelson, an outside hitter from Victoria, is a second-year player, but she did not often see the floor as a rookie.
The WolfPack men were not likely as bad as there record indicated last season, as they lost all six fifth-set matches they played.
Among TRU’s key returnees is Brad Gunter, a 6-foot-5 right-side from Courtenay who has an 11-foot-6 vertical reach.
“It’s international-calibre,” Hennelly said.
“And, he is starting to get his man strength.”
It showed last weekend, when he sprung for 19 kills against the host UBC Thunderbirds in Vancouver at the Thunderball tournament, which TRU won.
The matches on Saturday will give both coaches an idea where their teams stand at this early junction.
“Friday night is going to be a great experience, just to feel the intensity and the anticipation leading up to it,” Lundgren said.