Built to win now, the women’s volleyball team is among TRU WolfPack squads standing to lose the most if U Sports and Canada West championships are scuttled amid the pandemic.
Head coach Chad Grimm cannot be sure, but he projects seven of his veteran players will not return for the 2021-2022 campaign.
All of them will be allowed to come back next year if this season is cancelled, as U Sports athletes without national championships in 2020-2021 will not exhaust a year of eligibility, but each has plans to either travel or pursue education elsewhere.
“We had a breakthrough year last year, missing out on the national tournament by one match,” said Grimm, whose WolfPack reached the Canada West bronze medal match last season, but were swept 3-0 by Mount Royal in March in Calgary.
“This team was built to have success.”
Disassembling without opportunity to harvest yield from years of hard work would be a downer for the Pack, who cracked U Sports top 10 rankings last season for the first time in program history and return all but one of their players.
No Canada West two-term sports (hockey, volleyball and basketball) will commence before Jan. 1. Whether they resume at all will be decided no later than Oct. 8.
“I would be pleasantly surprised if they said you can have a Canada West or a national championship,” Grimm said. “My sense, and I could be wrong, is the only thing they can say definitively on October eighth is there is no season. They can’t say for sure there is going to be a season because things between Oct. 8 and January can change.”
Grimm remains hopeful U Sports can be malleable with its plan, perhaps by extending the Oct. 8 deadline and producing a tentative schedule if virus numbers appear promising.
In June, Canada West announced no conference competition will occur in first-term team sports — football, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s rugby 15s and women’s field hockey.
If volleyball meets the same fate, Grimm is confident a B.C. team-only exhibition league can form.
Interprovincial travel is still a no-go, but Volleyball BC moved into Phase 3 of its return-to-play plan last month. Cohorts of up to 100 people are allowed to play matches.
There are five Canada West teams in the province — TRU, Trinity Western of Langley, UBC of Vancouver, UBC Okanagan of Kelowna and Fraser Valley Cascades of Abbotsford. Volleyball rosters do not usually exceed 20 players.
“Right now, it would be tough to foresee a nationals situation happening,” said Avery Pottle, a fifth-year outside hitter/middle from Uxbridge, Ont. “I think we could have some sort of season. I definitely don’t think it will look the same as it has in the past.”
Hali Drezet, a fifth-year libero from Prince George, seemed to express more optimism for a traditional season.
“Everybody is doing their best to keep an open mind and be positive,” she said.
Elizabeth Reimer, a third-year middle from Edmonton, is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“It really depends what the virus numbers are looking like in October when they go to make that decision,” Reimer said. “It’s a little bit tough considering it could be the second wave, but if we are able to make sure the numbers don’t get super high, we might be able to have that condensed season in January.”