Sports

One final serving

Vancouver Island University Mariners volleyball player Tamara Rosenlund and her teammates will serve up the Canadian Colleges’ Athletic Association national championship tournament next week in the VIU gymnasium. - GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin
Vancouver Island University Mariners volleyball player Tamara Rosenlund and her teammates will serve up the Canadian Colleges’ Athletic Association national championship tournament next week in the VIU gymnasium.
— image credit: GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

It’s not uncommon for a graduating player to be pensive about a five-year college career coming to a close.

VIU Mariners volleyball captain Tamara Rosenlund thinks about it a lot.

“The last couple weeks it’s been going through my mind more and more,” she said. “I’m excited to be finished but at the same time I’m so excited for this time right now.”

That’s because it’s the best time to be a Mariners women’s volleyball player, or a fan. The team won the provincial championship last weekend, and starting Thursday (March 8) it hosts nationals in the Vancouver Island University gym.

A lot of the Mariners have been to nationals before. Only Rosenlund has won gold, back in 2008 when she was a role-playing rookie.

“I was like, ‘great, this is what it’s going to be like all the time,’” she recalled.

“Every team is different and we definitely went through some slips in the middle of my career but … being in the finals year after year after year, whether or not it was a gold or a silver, really gives us experience in those types of situations.”

Indeed, Rosenlund, who plays the defensive position of libero, has pretty much seen it all on the court. Even the unfathomable, like last year’s national final when the M’s celebrated match point for 30 seconds, only to have it all taken away on an official’s reversed call.

“People have had that in the back of their minds,” she said. “Maybe not so much hung up on it, but [there’s] that hunger to prove that that was ours last year, or that will be ours this year.”

So it’s inspiration.

“People know how that win feels,” said Rosenlund. “I know it was only for 30 seconds, but they want that for a lifetime now, not just that 30 seconds.”

So all season long, the VIU Mariners have known what they wanted. There have been times when they’ve wondered if a national championship will come, but after winning provincial gold last weekend, the team is not doubting itself in the least.

“We have everything on our team to achieve that ultimate goal,” Rosenlund said.

Including one of the best liberos in the country, according to M’s coach Shane Hyde.

“She’s not one of those liberos that’s diving all over the court and making these spectacular digs, she’s the player that’s reading the play before it happens and standing up and making the perfect dig,” said Hyde.

Rosenlund was a first-team all-star at provincials because of her defence and passing, but she brings much more to the M’s. As well as being a leader, she’s also depended upon to be a sort of community ambassador, said Hyde. And then there’s desire. All the players have it, but none more so than a graduating fifth-year.

In previous playoff runs, veterans would implore their younger teammates to play like it’s their last year.

“I am,” Rosenlund protested, then.

“Now, I know exactly what the people before me were saying.”

These days, she appreciates every minute on the court and wishes practice was three hours long. But then practice ends, too soon, after just an hour and a half. So there’s lots of time afterward for Rosenlund to think about finishing up her last season. Sometimes she even thinks about match point, which will come next week, one way or another.

“I am thinking about that last point. Sometimes it goes through my head,” she said. “And I’m nervous, excited, sad, happy. It’s definitely going to be a weird feeling and I’m hoping it’s going to be a very happy feeling, that last point.”

GAME ON … Vancouver Island University hosts the Canadian Colleges' Athletic Association national championships from Thursday (March 8) to Saturday. VIU plays Mount St. Vincent Thursday at 8 p.m. at the VIU gymnasium. For more, please visit the official tournament website.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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