WolfPack in post-season hunt
A little bit of home cooking might have been exactly what the TRU WolfPack men’s volleyball team needed ahead of its push toward the Canada West playoffs.
The WolfPack split a pair of matches with the UBC Thunderbirds in front of boisterous crowds inside the TRU gym on the weekend, winning 3-1 on Friday, Jan. 18, and losing by the same margin on Saturday, Jan. 19.
“For sure, every match we play now is critical,” WolfPack head coach Pat Hennelly said after the win on Friday.
“We helped ourselves out tremendously tonight. We didn’t lose ground and that is what is important.”
The T-Birds (10-6) are ranked sixth in the conference, while the Pack (6-10) remain two spots out of the playoffs, in ninth.
Being swept on the weekend would have left the Pack with a long road back to playoff contention.
Instead, Hennelly’s charges are still within reach of the seventh-placed Winnipeg Wesmen (8-8), with six winnable matches left to play.
TRU travels to Calgary for a pair of tilts against the Dinos (4-12) this weekend.
The WolfPack host Mount Royal University of Calgary (7-9) twice, on Feb. 2 and Feb. 3, and the Wesmen twice, on Feb. 8 and Feb. 9, to finish the regular season.
All the remaining home matches will be played at the Tournament Capital Centre (TCC), the WolfPack’s usual home digs, which were unavailable for the UBC matches on the weekend.
Hennelly said the crowd played a big role in the Pack’s win on Friday, when the team was playing inside its former home, the TRU gym.
“If we had the same number of people at the TCC, they would have been quiet. They are right on top of us [in the TRU gym].
“Loud fans raise the intensity. It’s a massive win for our team, but I think the atmosphere was awesome.”
TRU has been waiting for the emergence of outside hitter Phil Ozari and the injury-plagued Dane came through on Friday with 15 kills, four service aces, a dig and two block assists.
He said the fans created an atmosphere comparable to that of a European youth championship game.
“We had a very good spirit on the court,” said Ozari, a product of Birkerod, Denmark.
“The crowd made us shout and be louder on the court.
“I think it carried our team through the game.”
On Saturday, American Jake Tricarico was among TRU’s best players, compiling 13 kills, two digs, a solo block and two block assists.
“I think the level of competition against UBC is where we need to be to perform,” Hennelly said.
“We are a young team. I think we have to play with that edge.”
The WolfPack women’s volleyball team fell to 0-16 on the season with a pair of losses to the T-Birds in the TRU gym on the weekend.
UBC swept TRU 3-0 on Friday and Saturday.
Next up for the Pack are a pair of matches against the Dinos in Calgary this weekend.
— with files from TRU sports information