Kamloops, BC—The most improved team of all the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack Canada West squads over the first half of the 2014-15 is without a doubt: women’s volleyball.
After not winning a league match in over two years, Chad Grimm has his team sitting in a tie for seventh place overall with a 7 and 9 record. Up until the final weekend before the Christmas break, Thompson Rivers had a record of .500 or better and were honorable mention in the CIS top ten rankings one week.
“Overall I am happy with how the team has come together both on and off the court, “says Grimm.” I think the girls have done an excellent job dealing with the adversity we have gone through regarding injuries and have found a way to be successful despite these challenges.”
Since the beginning of the season, the WolfPack have been down a middle due to an injury to Julia Niemczewska (Calgary, AB). For a time, they had no regular middles and forced Grimm to make some radical changes to his lineup. He says that has shown the true character and skill of his lineup.
“I think each of the girls has been able to bring something to our team that has helped us during this first half. Using so many different players and line ups has allowed each of the girls to be successful and compete, so our ability to stick together as a team has been my most pleasant surprise. If I were to look at individuals, obviously Iuliia (Pakhomenko, 3rd year, outside hitter, Donetsk, Ukraine) has had a great first half and is putting up player of the year type numbers. I also think Kara Twomey (3rd year, setter, Winnipeg, MB) has been steady for us even though she has been thrust into a role of setting and blocking out of the middle position on many nights. The same can be said of Brianne (Rauch, 3rd year, outside hitter, Kimberly, BC) and Alyssa (Wolf, 4th year, outside hitter/libero, South Surrey, BC) , they have both played multiple positions and have done it for the best interest of the team. As a first year I think Tyneille (Neufeld, 1st year, outside hitter/libero, Winnipeg, MB) has brought some toughness and defensive intensity to the group and Katarina (Legutky, 2nd year, outside hitter, Calgary, AB) has done a great job in place of Krista Hogewoning (4th year, outside hitter, Delta, BC) while she has been out as far as helping with our offensive production.”
Pakhomenko has taken the Canada West by a storm. The former Ukrainian national team and NCAA Division II player missed the final match before the break. Still: she leads the league in kills (284), is second in kills per set (4.81), is third in hitting percentage (.285), and is 19 th in digs (135). The coach says she has adjusted well to life in Canada: “Being part of a new group, and taking a Masters Program has been challenging for her but she seems to be making a good adjustment. I think much of this can be credited to the team and helping her to be a part of the group as well as her homestay here in Canada. Tanya Smith has been fantastic in regards to helping her adjust to life in Canada and providing her with a family away from home.”
Statistically, there are a number of other members of the WolfPack who are among Canada West leaders.
Twomey is second in the Canada West in assists per set (9.27).
Wolf is 13 th in digs (141) and 20 th in overall digs (141) while Kaitlin Lomas (2nd year, middle, Ponoka, AB) is 22nd in blocks per set (0.74) despite missing three matches with a broken finger.
Grimm looks back at the first 16 matches and says a few highlights have come to mind. “Obviously the first win against Calgary was big for this group, it released some of the pressure that had been building up the past few years as far as results are concerned. It was also nice to get our first ever win against UBC at the home opener with a great crowd and it being my alumni as well. The biggest highlight for me however, has been to see some joy in our athletes when they come to practice and seeing them compete again in the sport they love.”
He adds that he didn’t have expectations regarding results and how many wins and losses the WolfPack would have. “I knew it would be as process for this group to learn how to compete together and also be able to do that on a nightly basis. For the most part, we have been able to do that so I am pleased.”
The WolfPack will enjoy the next couple of weeks off to heal and then begin preparing for the resumption of their Canada West season. They will visit MacEwan University in Edmonton on January 10 th and 11 th before returning home to entertain the UBCO Heat in matches January 16 th and 17 th. Game time on January 10 th at the Tournament Capital Centre is 6 pm.
SIDE OUTS: Grimm on his first year as a full time CIS head coach: “I have enjoyed the first half. It is obviously an adjustment from my previous career but it has been a positive experience. I think that the girls have been very patient with me and helped me to navigate my way through these first few months. Having Nathan (Bennett, assistant coach) here on a full time basis has also been great not only for the team, but also for me as it is another person to bounce ideas off of and to help steer the ship.”