VIU Mariners player Megan Rosenlund hits the volleyball at practice Tuesday afternoon at the Vancouver Island University gym.

Defending volleyball champions reset

VIU’s volleyball teams begin the 2016-17 PacWest campaign this weekend with home matches against the College of the Rockies Avalanche.

The VIU Mariners can allow themselves a few minutes this Saturday (Oct. 15) to bask in the memories as they raise their banner from a national championship season.

But then it’s on to the here and now and the start of a new season.

Vancouver Island University’s volleyball teams begin the 2016-17 PacWest campaign this weekend with home matches against the College of the Rockies Avalanche.

Megan Rosenlund, the team’s new captain, said the Mariners can “kind of” carry some things over from last winter.

“But I would say we’re more focused on building a new year, because every year is different,” she said. “There’s good energy [going] in from last year, but we’re focusing on what’s coming up ahead.”

It’s hard to win a Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championship and harder still to repeat, and after Saturday’s banner-raising ceremony, there won’t be any more championship talk for a long while.

“There’s tons and tons of room to improve and I’m not that concerned, because the season’s so long and I’m looking at the final product,” said Shane Hyde, Mariners coach. “But I do think that we’re coming out of the gates this year a lot stronger than we have the last two years in terms of what our skill is like on the floor.”

The Mariners graduated two starters, including All-Canadian Tylar Turnbull, who has stayed with the program as an assistant coach. Basically all the returning players are looking better than ever, Hyde said, and others who were role players have positioned themselves to earn more time on the court.

“We’re going to use a more balanced team this year. I kind of feel like we’re going to rotate people quite a bit more,” said the coach. “Last year we had basically a Plan A and a Plan B. This year, I think we’d be able to go down to Plan D if we had to.”

The core of the team includes power hitters Rosenlund and Andrea Cankovic and rightside Mikayla Wagner. Also back is setter Chantal Cumming, who will split time at the position with Shelby Dorman-Banks. Newcomer Natalie Crews and returnee Cattie Hegglin are two of a few players who will line up in the middle. Taking over as starting libero is Kelsey Hutt.

The coaching staff is continuing to learn about players and how they fit together on the court, and will balance that with trying to win matches.

“We’re trying to see what works best in terms of chemistry for the team,” Hyde said. “We’re trying to teach the individual stuff and squeeze out what they have individually for the team, but then it’s a matter of going with things that make sense.”

GAME ON … The Mariners and Rockies play Saturday at 6 p.m. at the VIU gym. A men’s match between the two programs will follow at 8 p.m. There are rematches Sunday, with the women playing at 11 a.m. followed by the men at 1 p.m. Admission to all home games for Mariners court teams is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors and alumni, $2 for youths and free for VIU students.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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