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Virus-ridden TRU WolfPack talk waylays amid wonky Canada West season

“These conditions aren’t even close to ideal, but the previous year’s conditions were even worse, so let’s make the best of it,” said Scott Clark, head coach of the TRU WolfPack men’s basketball team.

Attempts at motivational spin are a window into dark times in Canada West sports.

“These conditions aren’t even close to ideal, but the previous year’s conditions were even worse, so let’s make the best of it,” said Scott Clark, head coach of the TRU WolfPack men’s basketball team.

The pandemic wiped out the 2020-2021 Canada West season.

Virus-related cancellations and postponements have plagued the beginning of the second half of the 2021-2022 Canada West season, a campaign that was turned upside down in November when storms caused devastation on highways across southern B.C.

Travel by road to and from the Coast was not possible, forcing some teams into an eight-week break between games that spanned from November to January, adding to the oddity of a season that consists only of intra-provincial play.

“Some of these first-year guys, who didn’t even play club or high school last year, they’re going to be rookies again next year,” said WolfPack men’s volleyball head coach Pat Hennelly, whose club was inactive between Nov. 13 and Jan. 14.

“Their heads will be spinning. None of them have really experienced what it’s about. There’s definitely going to be a lag.”

The back half of the Canada West schedule is going to be jam-packed for most teams, with make-up games on the docket.

Maximum half-capacity crowds can expect to see depleted rosters in many cases as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is running wild.

Clark and WolfPack women’s volleyball coach Chad Grimm, both of whom this month tested positive for COVID-19, spoke to KTW on Monday.

“We had three girls out after Christmas. They came back, then five more go out,” Grimm said.

“It looks unlikely we’re going to go through the rest of the season and not have some of these situations come up again.”

The WolfPack women’s volleyball team played host to the Fraser Valley Cascades of Abbotsford on the weekend and dropped to 0-8 after a pair of losses.

“Four girls fresh out of high school were thrust into starting roles last weekend,” said Grimm, who, along with assistant coach Behlul Yavasgel, was in isolation and could not attend the weekend contests.

“That’s a lot to ask for from girls who haven’t really played in two years. They didn’t get their last high school or club season. In a sense, it’s super challenging and hard. In another sense, they’re getting thrown into the fire and getting experience they wouldn’t normally get.”

The virus has run through the majority of the players on the men’s volleyball and basketball teams.

TRU could not muster enough players to host Fraser Valley last weekend in men’s volleyball action and two matches were postponed.

The UBC Thunderbirds twice vanquished the WolfPack men’s basketball team last weekend in Vancouver, leaving TRU with a record of 4-8.

Clark was at home recovering from COVID-19, marking the first time he has missed conference games in a Canada West coaching career that spans 27 years.

“I think we’re through it,” Clark said. “We got hit pretty good.”

The WolfPack men’s basketball team is slated to host Victoria this weekend, but the virus-ridden Vikes may not have enough players to floor a team, said Clark.

TRU and Victoria are slated to square off in women’s basketball action this weekend at the TCC, with game time set for 7 p.m. on Friday and 5 p.m. on Saturday.

“We’ve had quite the late fall and early spring here, with all of the road closures, trying to get flights, then changing flights back to buses, then road closures opening, can we go this way or that way, supposed to play games, but the team we’re playing doesn’t have enough players,” said WolfPack women’s basketball head coach Ken Olynyk, whose rebuilding team is 1-12 on the season.

“Now, we’ve been very fortunate. We’ve been able to play all of our games to date.”

The women’s basketball team has been the least virus-affected club in the WolfPack stable, with four cases to date.

“Right now, we’re a little bit walking on egg shells,” Olynyk said. “Touch wood. Keep our fingers crossed.

“Sometimes you think, well, maybe it would have been better if everybody got hit over Christmas and then we’d all be good to go right now, but you just can’t take the chance. It seems to be milder than what we had a year ago, but definitely some people still get hit very hard and we don’t want that.”

Grimm and the WolfPack volleyball women are scheduled to play the UBC Okanagan Heat this weekend in Kelowna.

“It’s even hard to practise when you have nine people,” Grimm said. “It’s a totally different scenario. It’s hard to prepare to compete, game plan and do all of those regular things.”

Hennelly’s charges, aiming to improve on a 1-5 record, are expected to return to action this weekend against the Heat in the Little Apple.

“... all I can say, and I keep telling the guys, is we’re still playing and we’ve still got something to look forward to,” he said.

“I think every guy takes that over last year.”