WolfPack women’s volleyball team is getting into game action a little earlier this year.
Following the team's .500 performance and a berth in the Canada West playoffs in 2015-16, head coach Chad Grimm has his team off to play some exhibition matches a few weeks earlier than normal.
The WolfPack will meet the Simon Fraser University Clan (NCAA Div II) on Friday, Aug. 26, before heading to Corvallis, Ore., and Portland for matches against Seattle University and the Oregon State Beavers (NCAA Div I) and Portland State University (NCAA Div II).
“The former coach from Oregon State (Terry Liskevych) is a former U.S. national team coach and he recruited both Alina (Sopizhuk) and Iullia (Pakhomenko),” said Grimm. “I contacted him to see if he would do something with us, and because it is their fifth year, it would be nice for them to see him again. He managed to get this to happen for us. “
Sopizhuk and Pakhomenko –both from Donetsk, Ukraine--are WolfPack’s two fifth-year players.
The WolfPack have only practiced as a team since Monday. Their opposition are all gearing up for their respective season openers and have been together for a while.
“This will be beneficial for us to play some good teams as well.”
Grimm is looking forward to the start of the 2016-17 Canada West season in late October. He has seven new faces on his roster and lost four starters.
“I think the athleticism and compete level of the new group is good. The skills and game play will take a while but I am not too worried about that. Obviously our season doesn’t start for a while so this is good for us to play teams at a high level and gives us time to figure out where we need to make some improvements.”
Pakhomenko is back for her final season of university volleyball after being named both the Canada West and CIS player of the year and being the Canada West. Grimm is expecting the opposition to again to pay close attention to her.
“They know that Iuliia is our ‘go to‘ girl. To be honest, I expect her to be better this year. She has room for growth in a lot of areas and I believe she thinks that too. Her training with the national team this year has helped her to develop some of the skills she needs to work on. I think besides her skills, the biggest push she can make is her leadership skills on and off the court. I think for her to develop those before she graduates and gets into the business world is important. I think she is looking forward to that as well.”
Grimm expects to utilize his entire line up over the exhibition tour. He believes that the adjustment for his high school recruits will be huge.
“It always is like that even if you were a top level player. The girls are used to playing the club system where for the most part, they play with their age group or maybe one above. Now, they are competing against girls who are as old as 25. They are fully adult women who have as much as seven years extra strength and play. It is a huge gap but I think they are looking forward to it.”
The coach added that, with a long time before the season opener, a lot of his senior players will be worked in gradually so they don’t burn themselves out when the matches count.
The WolfPack have two exhibition tournaments: in Alberta and in Langley before they open up their Canada West season on the Warner Rentals court at the Tournament Capital Centre on Friday, Oct. 28, against University of Alberta Pandas. Game time will be 6 p.m.