A fabulous freshman year with the Thompson Rivers University (TRU) WolfPack has turned into a national junior men’s volleyball team trials invite for Vernon’s Landon Currie
Currie, a Fulton Maroons grad who played libero for the Pack, will be vying for a spot at the camp, which begins next Wednesday at the national training centre in Gatineau, Que.
“First year went really well,” said Currie, about his rookie campaign in the Canada West. “I wasn’t expecting to start but with a lot of hard work, I was able to show my skills out there.”
WolfPack head coach Pat Hennelly said Currie had no trouble handling the huge jump from high school.
“He was exceptional this year for us,” said Hennelly. “We haven’t had very many pure high school recruits step into our lineup. It took Gord Perrin (Creston) a bit to get into the lineup. Kevin Tillie (Cagnes Sur Mer, France) came in but he had quite a bit of support as well. We put Landon into a position where he had to pass half the court and he handled that. Just the mental aspect of that is tough. There are very few guys in this league that can do that. Landon was outstanding.”
Currie admits the transition from Team BC and high school action was a big one.
“The serves were tougher and the hits were harder,” he said. “But after a couple of games, I got used to it and showed my strengths on the court.”
Currie, who also excelled at hockey, was third in the Canada West in digs per set (2.32) and fifth in digs (46) The 5-foot-9 Currie says the confidence shown in him by Hennelly helped with the learning curve.
“He pushed me in practice and gave me a lot of support. He kept me in when I was struggling a bit and let me work through it.”
Hennelly cited Currie’s impressive poise as a reason for his success.
“We were playing Calgary (Dinos) and they were operating on a serving package which was targeted at going over his head to make him use his hands. He struggled for a bit. I asked him in the third set if he wanted out but he said he was ready to go. He was solid in the third, fourth and fifth set. He has great character and his ability to stay in games is there. As a first year, you never really know if that would come with guys. He has proven that he can handle it. Can’t be happier for a guy like that in his first year to become a cornerstone of our team.”
Hennelly says Currie is a natural-born leader.
“Absolutely. He wants to take that on. He is not afraid to talk to guys. He had that sort of ‘head-up, aggressive attitude’ on the court that everyone thrives on. He is a leader already by his actions.”
Currie has been training towards the junior national’s training camp since January.
“I have always dreamed of playing for Canada. I am excited to try out and hopefully I can make it.”
After a holiday in China earlier this month, Currie has been commuting from Vernon to Kamloops to train with his teammates who are staying at TRU for the summer.
Looking ahead to Gatineau, Currie will be joined by six or seven of his former Team BC mates. The team is preparing for the NORECA championship tournament in Nicaragua which will be held in July (8-16). They will train from June 3-July 15 in Quebec.
With the selection camp being a short affair, Currie knows what is expected.
“I need to go hard right from the start. I will need to talk lots and show a lot of energy.”
Currie plans not to stray from his approach with Thompson Rivers, which resulted in him starting in playing in 82 sets and appearing in all 24 league matches (one of three players on the WolfPack to do that).
“You have to get in there immediately and show what you can do,” said Hennelly, who has had a number of his players go through the process. “That is the way it should be. I think he will do well in the camp. He has the right attitude and mindset going in. We have had guys get cut and guys make the team in the past. Landon will have to have a good weekend and show coaches that he has what it takes at the next level. This ties into the senior program as well. Landon will have to prove he can fit.”
Whether he makes the junior national team or not, Currie says the experience will be beneficial to helping the WolfPack succeed in 2018-19.
“It will be huge to play with the best players in my age group from across the country. And the coaching I’ll be receiving will be great as well. It will definitely help my game.”
Added Hennelly: “I think anytime you test yourself at this level, your nerves are going to be there and you have the pressure to perform. It is not much different than a playoff game. You are either going to be excited and train a lot or be disappointed and reflect on what you could have done to better prepare to get there. It really helped Brad Gunter (Courtenay). After being cut the first time, he took a long hard look at his preparation and work in the gym. He improved dramatically in the physical end of things because he realized he wasn’t working hard enough. That helped his career explode. Anytime you challenge yourself anytime in life knowing there is a chance of failure, you become a better person. I am just happy Landon is going to try out.”
SIDE OUTS: The coach of the junior national team is Joao Bravo, who played professionally in South America. The last WolfPack player to participate on the junior national team was Charlie Bringloe (outside hitter, Waterloo, Ont.), two years ago. TRU alumni who have played on the team include Gunter, Perrin and Colin Carson (Prince George). Gunter and Perrin are currently members of the senior national team.