Hennelly turns to youth-infused lineup in WolfPack win over Bisons (with slideshow)

Second-year setter Sam Elgert is part of the future, which might be starting a little earlier than expected for the TRU WolfPack men’s volleyball team.

“We’ve had not the best season, so everything is just kind of on our bench guys to come in here and change things up,” Elgert said.

TRU suffered a four-set loss to the Manitoba Bisons on Friday in what WolfPack head coach Pat Hennelly called a do-or-die match.

Starters on Friday included fifth-year middle Kyle Behiels, fourth-year setter Anton Napolitano, fifth-year outside hitter Charlie Bringloe, rookie outside hitter Nimo Benne, fifth-year outside hitter Joshua Mullaney and fifth-year middle Sam Taylor Parks.

The lineup was youth-infused on Saturday for the rematch.

Bringloe, Taylor Parks and fledgling star Benne remained, but Elgert and two rookies — middle Corbin Ockerman and outside hitter Brody Kopec — were among the starting six.

TRU, which has struggled with killer instinct for much of the campaign, nearly coughed up a 2-0 lead, but prevailed in five sets to improve to 3-11 on the campaign.

“Every coach starts to look for different lineups when things aren’t going well,” Hennelly said.

“This one came through, but we have some depth this year. We had injuries early, where we had different lineups and stayed competitive. I’ve got to honour that.”

The WolfPack, who started the season with aspirations to be a top-four team in Canada West standings and perhaps push through to the conference final, are a long shot to qualify for the post-season.

Will Hennelly begin to tinker with lineups more often?

“Yes and no,” he said. “We’ve got good young players that work hard in practise. Corbin Ockerman came out today and performed well. Brody, we’re already starting to call him Big Game. You can’t tell if his pulse is up or down.”

Elgert was named player of the match, finishing with 50 assists, two service aces, three digs and one block assist.

“It [the mindset on Saturday] was just have fun with the guys, reset from last night, not really focus on the result, play our hardest and leave it all out there,” Elgert said.

“That win is huge. We’ve had a few games where we’ve kind of almost choked when we were up big. Those hurt a ton. Our personality showed through and it was good for us to come back.”

The WolfPack are 10th in conference standings. The top eight will qualify for the post-season. Calgary (6-6) is eighth. Manitoba (7-7) is tied for sixth.

Hennelly said TRU likely has to win its next six matches to enter the final weekend of regular-season play with any hope of sneaking in.

Next up for the WolfPack are two tilts this weekend against the Mount Royal Cougars (4-10) in Calgary.

Veterans, some of whom spent more time watching from the bench than usual on Saturday, will likely need to play pivotal roles if the Pack are going to reach the tournament.

Without them, the club would not have reached the conference semifinal round last season, but chemistry has been off in 2019-2020 and they will be pushed by hungry younger players.

“When guys are working day in and day out and we’re not winning, we’ve got to give guys a chance,” Hennelly said. “I thought the guys stepped up.”
 

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