(ISN) – Kamloops, BC—The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack men’s volleyball team will ride a roller coaster of emotions this weekend as they battle for a playoff spot in the Canada West. The importance of their two matches at the Tournament Capital Centre against Mount Royal are paramount in the minds of all the members of the WolfPack.
But you can forgive four of them—Matt Krueger (Abbotsford, BC), Stu Richey (Robert’s Creek, BC), Casey Knight (Salt Spring Island, BC) and Blake Majcher (Brandon, MB) for being a little bit more emotional. That’s because it will be their final home matches of their CIS career. Richey and Krueger were honored last weekend against UBCO. This Saturday (Jan 24), it will be Knight and Majcher’s turn.
Knight has played his entire five years at TRU. The 6’8 outside hitter arrived on the scene in 2010 as a little known, raw recruit out of an area where men’s volleyball isn’t a hotbed. In fact, WolfPack head coach Pat Hennelly went to scout Knight at the BC “A” High School championships only to find out he was injured.
Knight has gone from raw rookie to starting and becoming one of the prominent outside hitters in the Canada West during his tenure at TRU.”It’s hard to comprehend really,” he says about how his five years with the program have gone.” I find that I can’t think about how there might only be a few more weeks to my CIS career because it’s something that you don’t miss until it’s gone. Looking back I wouldn’t change anything about it though. Right from the beginning of hanging on the bench with Stu in our first year to switching positions in my 3rd – 4th years to finally starting. “
“When you are recruiting you have to go after the stars on the provincial team and the guys who are the best in the province,” says Hennelly about Knight. “That is obvious. But you have to beat the bushes for pieces that fit and look for potential guys who could blossom. At the time we recruited Casey he was 6’6″. We were recruiting him for his size and he was a left hander—which we didn’t have in the program at the time. It has turned out great. One other CIS coach asked me why I was recruiting him. He didn’t understand the process of training a big, young guy. It took Casey two years how to control his body. He is now 6’9”. Now his is one of the top outside hitters in the country. He went to the National Junior “B” tryouts last year. He might be able to parlay that into a spot on the National FISU team. We found a premiere guy. In men’s volleyball you have to do a little more work to find these guys. He and Stu Richey are good examples of players from parts of the province where there isn’t a lot of exposure.”
Majcher’s career with the WolfPack is a little more short lived. He came to Thompson Rivers three seasons ago after starring at Medicine Hat College in the Alberta College Athletic Association. The 6’1″ libero looks back at his time here like this: “It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that university volleyball is coming to a close. It’s the end of a way of life for me. School and volleyball have been such a huge part of my life for the past many years that it’s hard to understand right now what life after volleyball will be like. .It’s been an odd feeling seeing how these feelings have started to hit me. The sense of urgency has set in and it shows through at different times. When I got the chance to go in against Alberta I really felt the importance but also the unique experience of getting to host the #1 team in the country and to be in the thick of the game and have a chance to hand them their first loss. “
Hennelly looks at Majcher: ” Blake was a guy we brought in shore up our libero position. He is a pretty competitive guy. We got to travel to Brandon and he was on the front page of the paper. His family always hosts us for dinner, which is nice when you are on the road. He brings a lot of intensity to practice. He is a hard worker and puts out an effort on fitness, and works hard in scrimmage. He doesn’t vocalize a lot but leads by example. He is a good compliment to Matt Krueger. They both complement each other. It is hard with two guys who are equal in talent and both want to play. They are both good enough to start by themselves on most teams. I was very fortunate to have both collaborate and took a mentorship role this year with Isaac Smit. We are losing a lot of leadership in all four of these guys.”
Both say the past few months of their final season of university volleyball have flown past. Knight looks at team trips to California and Hawaii as memorable but points to the friendships he has made among his current and former teammates as the highlight. He looks towards the future with an eye to trying his hand at professional volleyball after graduating with a business degree this Spring. “As a player I think that I have grown immensely in ability but there are still aspects of playing like the consistency that I need work on. These are things that only improve through experience and practice. Though I don’t think I’m finished growing I know I have done a lot of it in my 5 years. As a person I have grown a lot as well. I recently got engaged and am beginning to look farther ahead in life and wondering what is next ot come and this is something I never could have imagined in my first year at TRU.”
Majcher echoes the team trips as highlights of his career at TRU along with the playoff drives the past two seasons. He adds his first opportunity to coach at the WolfPack summer camp in Prince George was a highlight while working with former teammate now assistant coach Spencer Reed.
Majcher will graduate this spring with an Arts degree. He has these words of advice for his younger teammates: “. Take everything that comes to you and seize each and every opportunity to get better. Nothing is guaranteed and speed bumps and setbacks happen all the time. So appreciate and make the most of every moment.”
And for Knight? “My words of wisdom would have to be that they have so much time to play and enjoy the sport and that they shouldn’t worry too much about who is better than them because they are all here because they can play and they need to trust themselves and their ability to do well. Oh and do well in school that’s always important.”
The two players will be honored before Saturday’s match by Coach Hennelly. Their families will be on hand for the ceremony.