Kamloops, BC—The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack got a huge emotion lift on Saturday night (Jan 16). The WolfPack men's volleyball team snapped a three game Canada West losing streak as they downed the visiting University of Saskatchewan Huskies 3-2.
The scores on the Warner Rentals Court at the Tournament Capital Centre were 25-19,18-25,26-28,25-21,15-11. TRU's regular season record is now 5-11 while Saskatchewan falls back to .500 at 8-8.
"The first set was like last night and the second was similar to last night," stated WolfPack head coach Pat Hennelly referring to his team's 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Huskies on Friday (Jan 15). "We got into a bit of a lull. I told the guys that we know we don't operate like that. We need someone to fire things up. Jordan Foot (3rd year, middle, Prince George, BC) was a little bit like that guy today. We had a big rebound night from Brad Gunter (5th year outside hitter, Courtenay, BC). Graham Stoliker (5th year, setter, Surrey, BC) distributed the ball well today and got everybody involved in the offense including the young middle guys. It feels good. We know we can play good volleyball. It feels good to do it finally."
Gunter led the way offensively for TRU with 25 kills in 42 chances with two service aces, 11 digs and three block assists. Stoliker had 56 assists, six digs and four block assists. Foot had three kills, a dig and a block assist in two sets.
"A split in Canada West on the road is a good thing," stated Saskatchewan coach Brian Gavlas. "But we have had two splits on the road in two weekends and five setters. Hopefully we get those wins and we put ourselves in a better position than we are right now."
Gavlas agreed with Hennelly that the first two sets in this match mirrored Friday. "They came out good and they were strong in the first set. We responded in the second. After that it was a struggle as we had trouble serving on the end line. That put us into trouble in the serve-receive. We didn't make very good choices when we were in trouble."
Saskatchewan's offense was powered by Andrew Nelson (4th year, right side, Regina, SK) who had 21 kills in 43 opportunities with three digs and two block assists. Jordan Nowakowski (5th year, right side, Rama, SK) wound up with 19 kills in 38 chances with seven digs. CJ Gavias (1st year, setter, Saskatoon, SK) wound up with 52 assists, eight digs, a solo block and one block assist
With their playoff hopes flickering, Hennelly elected to utilize a lot of his younger players. Joshua Mullaney (1st year, outside hitter, Calgary, AB) came up with some big blocks off the bench. Sam Taylor Parks (1st year, middle, Kelowna, BC) was named the "McDonalds/TRU Bookstore Leader of the Pack" Player of the match. He had six kills in 14 swings with a service ace and nine block assists.
"Josh came into block," Hennelly said. "He is long. He is 6'7". He made some huge blocks including one in the fifth set. It is always nice to see guys perform. It gives them some confidence and brings excitement into the week of training. Sam Taylor Parks is our steadiest guy blocking. He does his job serving. Today, was perfect example: he goes back there and serves a really hard one and puts their libero in trouble. He has performed beyond expectations. He is ahead of his years for sure in his playing abilities."
Hennelly says the victory was huge mentally for his squad going into a road trip to Regina next week (Jan 22-23). " It is hard. Anyone who has played a sport knows that when you continually lose it wears on you. This is great for the guys. Stoliker and Brad were a part of it. That is what you want to see…enjoying the game."
The Huskies return home to face Mount Royal next weekend (Jan 22-23).
The WolfPack are back at the Tournament Capital Centre on January 29 th when they entertain the University of Manitoba Bisons. 7:45 pm on the Warner Rentals Court.