2016-17 will be a year of 'transition' for the most successful of Thompson Rivers University's CIS franchises. The WolfPack have been guided, since their inception by Pat Hennelly.
But this year, he is taking a leave of absence to work on his Masters degree. Enter former player and assistant coach Mike Hawkins. After a year of guiding the Alberta College Athletic Conference Lethbridge College Kodiaks, Hawkins will be the interim 'bench boss' of the 'Pack this season.
He will be joined by former players: Matt Krueger and Spencer Reed . Jake Schmidt — a former player and coach with Cariboo College — will also assist the team.
On the court, the 'Pack are transitioning. Outside hitter Brad Gunter (Courtney, BC) has played out his five years of CIS eligibility. He leaves as the nations all time leading scorer and kills leader.
Gunter will either play professionally this coming year or enter the Volleyball Canada full time training facility. Gunter and fellow TRU alum Casey Knight won bronze medal at a Pan Am tournament in Mexico in June as part of Canada's national '"B" men's team.
Two other Alum — Gord Perrin and Kevin Tillie — will be participating in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio for Team Canada and Team France respectively.
Back to the current edition of the WolfPack: now is the time for some of the WolfPack's younger players to take up the challenge.
TRU had three players: outside hitter Charlie Bringloe (Waterloo,ON) along with middles Sam Taylor Parks (Kelowna, BC) and Kyle Behliels (Edmonton, AB) attend the National junior men’s team tryouts in June. Behiels and Taylor Parks were Canada West ‘all rookie’ team selections in 2015-16 and are expected to retain their starting roles.
Behiels was also a CIS Academic All Canadian in his first year.
Hawkins will look to the lone fifth year member of the squad: Daniel Eikland Rod (Oz, Norway) to be their leader on and off the court. He will be the ‘go to’ guy on offense along with outside hitter Randy Grundmann (Winnipeg, MB). The graduation of Graham Stoliker (Surrey, BC) has put Tyler Pomietlarz (Kelowna, BC) into the spotlight as the setter.
Jordan Foot (Prince George, BC) will also be counted on as a leader. Veteran middle Doug Groenendijk (Westholme, BC) spent some of this summer in Korea training with University SKK in Seoul.
Third year libero/outside hitter Cole Keddie (Edmonton, AB) is a two time CIS Academic All-Canadian.
After being injured for most of last season, Tim Edge (Langley, BC) could emerge as an offensive threat along with sophomore Joshua Mullaney (Calgary, AB).
Rookie signings this year are: Jakob Hamilton (6’2”, setter, Calgary, AB-William Aberhart High/Canuck Volleyball), Anton Napolitano (6’6”outside hitter, Melbourne, Australia-Kew High School/Melbourne University), and Sam Hanon (6’5” outside hitter,Leuvin, Belguim- Campus Redingenhof high school-Lizards Lubbeek-Leuven). Hanon will red shirt this season.
In the past, the WolfPack made it to CIS nationals three years in a row — including a bronze medal finish nationally in 2008.
The WolfPack will host a four team invitational tournament in late 2016.