Sports

Victorious volleyball teams get set for playoffs

VIU Mariners player Leanna Gildersleeve bumps the ball as teammate Sandra Veikle watches the play unfold Saturday at the VIU gym. - GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin
VIU Mariners player Leanna Gildersleeve bumps the ball as teammate Sandra Veikle watches the play unfold Saturday at the VIU gym.
— image credit: GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

The Vancouver Island University Mariners will bring emotion, momentum, and high-level volleyball into provincials.

VIU's women's and men's volleyball teams both won their matches against the Camosun Chargers on Saturday at the VIU gym to close out the Pacific Western Athletic Association season. The women swept the Chargers 25-17, 25-19, 25-19 and then the M's men followed up with a sweep of their own, 25-21, 25-22, 25-21.

The women's matches began with presentations to honour graduating fifth-years Dani Smith and Sandra Veikle, and the two veterans led their team to one more regular-season win. The first set was particularly one-sided.

"In that first set, in my mind we looked a little invincible," said Shane Hyde, VIU coach. "It looked like we were on a mission."

Leanna Gildersleeve led the M's (21-3) with nine kills and Smith had 27 assists. The Mariners also had great success with their blocks, said Veikle.

"We always had at least a good touch on it, if not a complete stuff block," she said. "So when they touch the ball like that it's really easy to play defence around the block and get those easy digs."

Due to results on the out-of-town scoreboard, Saturday's match didn't end up being important in the standings to the M's women. But for a team with serious playoff aspirations, every match is meaningful.

"We still wanted to put on a good show for our fans and we still wanted to end on a high note," Veikle said. "So we were still fired up."

Smith said at this time of year, it's important for the M's to have that playoff mentality.

"This game was a perfect opportunity for us to show what we were capable of at that level…" she said. "The team really showed up and everyone was playing for each other, and really positive. It was a fun weekend, it was a great weekend."

The M's women had also won their match Thursday against Camosun at the VIU gym, with scores of 25-18, 25-21, 25-16. Paige Wiebe led the team with eight kills that night.

GAME ON … The PacWest championships begin Thursday (Feb. 21) in Cranbrook, and the M's have their first match Friday, probably against the Columbia Bible College Bearcats … Please look for more on Smith and Veikle in an upcoming issue of the News Bulletin.

M's men win meaningful finale

While the women's match was more of a feel-good game, the men's match that followed that night had major implications in the standings. The Mariners needed to beat the Chargers to grab the No. 2 seed in the PacWest and a first-round playoff bye.

Even with so much on the line, VIU's men (16-8) kept their cool en route to victory.

"It was so nice to see a full match where everyone stayed in the system…" said Abe Avender, VIU coach. "It was using our heads the whole game rather than just thinking we can be physical and win without thinking."

Fifth-year player Lee Hamilton was taking the court for the last time at the VIU gym, and he made the final kill of the match. He and Zach Grigg finished with 12 kills apiece.

Since VIU will likely be facing Camo this week at provincials, Hamilton said Saturday's win could have added impact.

"Anytime you can put some doubt in a team right before you play them, they'll be worn down a little bit," he said. "It's a good taste to have in our mouth as we're going to provincials."

COURT SHORTS … The M's men lost to the Chargers on Thursday in five sets, 15-25, 25-23, 25-19, 24-26, 15-13. Hamilton had 22 kills in that one and Dillon Collett added 14 kills … Please look for more on Hamilton in an upcoming issue of the News Bulletin.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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