Sports

VIU all-star will go out swinging

VIU Mariners volleyball player Lee Hamilton stretches as he and his teammates await the serve during a match last weekend at the Vancouver Island University gym. - GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin
VIU Mariners volleyball player Lee Hamilton stretches as he and his teammates await the serve during a match last weekend at the Vancouver Island University gym.
— image credit: GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

Sometimes in sports, things go according to script.

Like last Saturday night, in the final volleyball match of the season at the Vancouver Island University gym. With playoff positioning at stake, VIU Mariners graduating fifth-year Lee Hamilton would not be denied on his night. On match point, the Camosun Chargers mis-played a ball and left it in Hamilton's wheelhouse, and he put it away with particular ferocity.

"You come in swinging in first year, you might as well go out swinging," he said. "It was kind of a perfect ending to a good career here."

As the VIU Mariners take the court in Cranbrook this week for the Pacific Western Athletic Association championships, their all-star 6-foot-7 middle Hamilton is at the top of his game.

He's been one of the main reasons why the Mariners have been so competitive during what might have been a transition year. Much of the roster has been overhauled over the past couple of seasons but the man in the middle has been a steadying influence.

"There was obviously some question marks coming into the season, not knowing what we've got, skill-wise," said Hamilton. "But once we got together our first couple of weeks, we could tell that this team had something special."

The Mariners had enough depth to survive a stretch in the fall where Hamilton was sidelined with a stress fracture. He devoted himself to rehab, said his coach Abe Avender, and came back stronger than ever.

"He's probably the most dedicated player I've ever had a chance to coach," Avender said. "He's one of those guys you hope to see him do well."

In his final season of college volleyball, Hamilton led the PacWest in blocks and was in the top 10 in kills. Over his last four matches he put up gaudy stats of 17 kills, 14 kills, 22 kills, and then 12 in his final match in his home gym.

Now playoff-bound, he and his team are inspired by the knowledge that they're right there with the best teams in the country.

"We're moving pretty good and it will be fun to see what happens at provincials," Hamilton said. "It's a bigger stage, but it's just got a different feel to it. As for nerves, you're still playing the game that everybody's been playing for years."

GAME ON … The Mariners men's and women's volleyball teams plays their PacWest semifinal matches Friday (Feb. 22) in Cranbrook … To read feature articles about the graduating players on the M's women's team, please click here and here.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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