Mariners men make it to nationals

The VIU Mariners have made sure that their surprising season will last a little longer.

Vancouver Island University's men's volleyball team qualified to compete at nationals thanks to a silver-medal finish at the Pacific Western Athletic Association championships in Cranbrook this past weekend. VIU's men earned the trip to Welland, Ont., on the strength of a semifinal victory Friday over the Camosun Chargers, 22-25, 29-27, 25-23, 25-18.

"When you've got that win-or-go-home game and win it, it was a neat feeling," said Abe Avender, VIU coach. "It was neat to see how we all came together at the end."

The M's dropped the first set, which the coach said was partly nerves and partly the fact that Camosun had won a quarterfinal match the day before and were already warmed up.

"We found our way," Avender said. "We passed really well and served quite solid. If we can serve and pass we can do a lot because we can run such a great offence that way. Once we got our bearings that way it was pretty smooth."

After that huge win, Saturday felt like a long day as the M's awaited their night-time gold-medal match. There they ran into a "hotter than hot" Capilano Blues team, Avender said, and the Mariners lost 26-24, 25-23, 12-25, 25-20.

"They were definitely dedicated and wanted to win that gold medal, but I think that they knew that they were through [to nationals]…" he said. "It would have been so nice to hang a banner in our gym but we still have an opportunity to hang a really neat banner up."

Lee Hamilton and Zach Grigg were selected as tournament all-stars. For the graduating fifth-year Hamilton and all his teammates, next month's trip to the Canadian Colleges' Athletic Association championships will be their first time competing at nationals.

"For the work that they put in, they really did earn it," Avender said.

COURT SHORTS … The CCAA championships begin March 7 … VIU's women's volleyball team won bronze medals at provincials, sweeping the Blues 25-15, 25-19, 25-17 in Saturday's third-place match. The M's women were upset in their semifinal Friday by the Columbia Bible College Bearcats by scores of 16-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-22, 15-7 … Dani Smith was chosen as a tournament all-star.

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