Nobody pounds out press releases like TRU sports information officer Larry Read, forever adept at feeding the Kamloops sports media machine.
So, when KTW got wind of a 6-foot-3 Belarusian joining the WolfPack women’s volleyball team and realized the acquisition was not accompanied by notice from the university, we figured one of two things: Read is sidelined with some sort of carpal-tunnel ailment or towering Kseniya Kocyigit is meant to be an eastern European secret weapon.
It turns out neither is true, according to head coach Chad Grimm, who asked Read to hold off on the big announcement until the 32-year-old middle’s papers were in order and she touched down in the Tournament Capital.
She has arrived.
Kocyigit, a longtime professional volleyball player and former member of Azerbaijan’s national team, has potential to be a match-winning addition to a squad that is primed for its best-ever season.
Grimm made no bold predictions or guarantees. When asked about expectations — are they as high as they’ve been since you took the reins in 2013-2014? — he said that is for other people to decide.
My decision: They are.
The WolfPack won their first playoff match in program history last season, albeit in a 2-1 series loss to the Alberta Golden Bears in Edmonton in Round 1 of the Canada West post-season.
That might not seem like a telling feat, but it was an exclamation point on a surprise season in which young players developed, veterans put their stamp on the team and Ukrainian Olga Savenchuk spiked her way into the Canada West elite conversation.
Savenchuk, similar to Iuliia Pakhomenko (also Ukrainian) before her, is evidence of the difference one player can make, named to the conference’s first all-star team after a campaign that saw her place fourth in the league in both kills and kills per set.
Without her, the Pack would almost certainly have missed the playoffs.
Savenchuk, the 6-foot-3 outside hitter from Donetsk, is returning to the fold, along with all of her teammates from the 2018-2019 season. Nobody graduated.
Standout hitter Yevgeniya Nyukhalova, who took last season off to have a baby, was pondering a return to TRU, but the WolfPack’s Female Newcomer of the Year Award winner for 2017-2018 (also Ukrainian), is expected to play this season for the Nanaimo-based Vancouver Island University Mariners in the Pacific Western Athletic Association ranks.
Two capable setters — fourth-year Calgarian Abby Spratt and 6-foot-2 Anastasiya Muzyka (the third-year Ukrainian whose friendship with Kocyigit played a part in the newcomer’s recruitment) — will push each other for playing time while passing to the likes of Kendra Finch, whose 312 points last season left her second only to Savenchuk (399) in the team-scoring category.
More are worth mentioning, including Katie Ludvig, the outfit’s lone Kamloopsian who is pursuing an increased role and plans to be a leader in her third season.
But it will be best to have a look for yourself.
TRU’s first regular season home match will be played at the TCC on Oct. 25, when Calgary comes to town for a 6:45 p.m. start.
Kocyigit will be there, along with potential for a winning season not felt since the program’s U Sports inception in 2005-2006.
Let’s hope TRU brass sets Read up with an ergonomic keyboard design.
Red-letter type seasons can be hard on the hands.