Kamloops, BC—The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack women’s volleyball team will be out to secure a playoff spot in Canada West action this weekend.
The ‘Pack (8-8) are heading east to take on the University of Manitoba Bisons (6-12) in Winnipeg. The teams will square off in matches on Friday (Feb 3) and Saturday (Feb 4).
“Manitoba is a good team-they lead the league in digs,” explained TRU head coach Chad Grimm. “They are strong defensively. They keep the ball in play and try not to make a lot of errors. They are pretty young but have some good athletes. They had a blip on their radar this past weekend against Brandon. Other than that, they have played some pretty tight defensive matches against Calgary and Mount Royal.”
He adds that they swept Saskatchewan.
TRU is coming off a sweep of the University of Regina Cougars on home court last weekend. When asked about how he can parlay that experience into practice this week, Grimm states: “With a short week because of travel, I expect to be focused on the task at hand which is getting better each contact until the end of the season. We will need to have a focus on our block and defense this weekend as I think those areas are still in need of improvement. We have been trying to get better and improving our out of system contacts to give our attackers more options. That is important for us moving forward.”
Iullia Pakhomenko (5th year, outside hitter, Donetsk, Ukraine) leads the Canada West in kills per set (4.82), is second in hitting percent (.299), third in Kills (270) and fifth in service aces per set (0.54).
Grimm comments on how other coaches noticing how while Pakhomenko leads statistically, TRU has developed other ‘weapons’ as well. “Obviously Iullia is part of the team and requires a ton of attention. That being said she opens things up for other players. Now we have other players who can make other teams pay because of that. As a first year Mikayla (Funk, outside hitter, Surrey, BC) has been pretty efficient on the right side. I think even she could get more volume and score more points. Rachel (Windhorst, 3rd year, outside hitter, Surrey, BC) has obviously been strong for us passing the ball. Our middles are starting to get going a bit more. Part of that is just getting a feel with our setters. Having two first year setters right now (Abby Spratt, Calgary, AB and Hali Drezet, Prince George, BC) is getting that confidence running the middle at critical times. Having two experienced middle players (Morgan Kolasa, Calgary AB and Kaitlin Lomas, Ponoka, AB) that can score as well is key. I think we could spread things out offensively than we have in the past.”
Spratt stand third in Canada West in assists per set (9.42).
She and sophomore libero (Kendra Finch of North Vancouver, BC) were both named “McDonalds/TRU Bookstore Leader of the Pack” players of the match last weekend. Grimm says they are showing experience beyond their years right now. “I expect Kendra and Abby, as well as all of our players to continue to grow as the season progresses and also begin to refine their ability to consistently prepare for each opponent. As a group, we have spoken a lot about compete and what that means and how we will be able to do this every night when we hit the floor. Hopefully, we will continue to show growth in that area which will allow us to be a tougher team to play against.”
After the weekend matches, TRU returns home to entertain the University of Winnipeg (Nov 11 and 12) and then play their final home match of the regular season on Thursday, February 16th against the UBCO Heat.
That night, the Pack will honor their four graduating players: Pakhomenko, Kolasa, Julia Niemczewska (Calgary, AB) and Alina Sopizhuk (Donetsk, Ukraine).
This weekend’s matches can been seen on a pay-per-view basis on www.CanadaWesttv.com.
SIDE OUTS: As Pakhomenko’s career is winding down she currently stands holding: Canada West record for aces in a single match (13), She is second through seventh in kills in a match (33, 32,31,31,31 and 30) and holds the top seven spots in points in a conference match (38,36,36,34.5,34,33.5,33,33).
Pakhomenko will move into sixth place in the all-time Canada West career kills this weekend. She has 1100 while Amanda Moppett (1999-2004) of the University of Calgary DInos stands at 1108. Sitting in fifth place all-time with 1,135 is Joanna Niemczewska of the Dinos (2001-5, 2006-07). She is the older sister of Pakhomenko’s teammate: Julia Niemczewska (4th year, middle, Calgary, AB) .
Pakhomenko is the Canada West all-time leader in kills per set (4.637), eighth in career aces (121-she will leap frog over former Saskatchewan Huskie Jina Barker (2012-16) at 122 this weekend). Next on that list is former Alberta Panda Jaki Ellis (2008-13) at 133.
She holds the record for Aces per set (0.508) and stands sixth in Career points (1277). She is 10.5 points behind former Trinity Western Spartan Alicia Perrin. Sitting in fourth spot is Michelle Sweeting (formerly of Regina-2010-15) at 1298.5) . Pakhomenko will likely surpass both of them this weekend.