Mariners dominate at provincials

It’s one down and one to go for the Vancouver Island University Mariners women’s volleyball squad.

The Mariners dominated the Pacific Western Athletic Association provincial championships in New Westminster on the weekend, sweeping both their semifinal and gold medal matches.

Even with an automatic berth in the national championships as host team, the Mariners wanted to prove their 22-2 record and No. 1 seeding in the provincial tournament was well deserved.

Coach Shane Hyde said his team had its ups and downs over the season, but has been playing good volleyball of late and went into the semifinal against Columbia Bible College well prepared, winning 25-14, 25-17, 25-17.

“We’ve had some tough battles in the regular season against them. We won, but every game went to five sets,” he said. “We spent a lot of time preparing for them, made some adjustments and probably played our best match of the season.”

Shenise Power was VIU’s player of the game.

The domination continued in the gold medal game with a  25-19, 25-23, 25-12 win over the University of Fraser Valley Cascades.

“One of the two matches we lost in the regular season was to UFV and they are team with a lot of offensive threat,” said Hyde. “Like the semifinal, we did some tweaking to our game and executed it well. We did a good job of shutting down their big players.”

Leanna Gildersleeve was VIU’s player of the game and was named tournament MVP.

Hyde said Gildersleeve is playing well in every aspect of the game and setter Dani Smith played outstanding all weekend.

Mariners Tamara Rosenlund and Marlie Temple were named tournament all-stars.

The Mariners now focus on the national championship March 8-10 after the power performance at provincials.

“We had a berth no matter what but to win provincials convincingly was nice,” said Hyde. “To have  a national championship in our own gym is pretty awesome.”

The coach plans to keep things pretty light for his players this week before getting down to business.

“Once we find out who our opponent will be we’ll get some tape on them and break it down,” he said. “This is a really deep team, the deepest I’ve ever coached.”

Meanwhile, the Mariners men’s team will be on the sidelines cheering the women on after falling 3-1 to the Douglas College Royals in Saturday’s gold medal match at provincials.

The Mariners went into the tournament ranked No. 1 after a 20-4 season and dispatched Victoria’s Camosun Chargers 25-17, 20-25, 25-14, 25-19 in the semifinal.

Coach Abe Avender said the gold medal game was a heartbreaker, yet still a fun game to play.

“It was their home gym and it’s always fun to play in front of a large crowd,” he said. “It wasn’t the result we wanted but I’m proud of all the guys. We’re such a tight-knit group. On the court or off, everyone was into the games. It was a great season.”

Down 2-1 in sets, VIU had a chance to tie the match, leading 24-21 in the fourth set, but fell 31-29.

“That was a tough one to swallow. We only needed one point a couple of times but couldn’t get it done,” said Avender.

Mariners Lee Hamilton and Milo Warren were named tournament all-stars and Avender described the pair as true team leaders.

“They are both so solid,” he said. “It’s nice as a coach to be able to run our offence through them.”

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