The VIU Mariners took their game to another level when it mattered most, and won a championship.
Vancouver Island University’s women’s volleyball team defeated the host Camosun Chargers in the PacWest final on Saturday night in Victoria in a five-set thriller, 15-25, 21-25, 26-24, 25-14, 15-12.
“Once we finally understood what it was going to take, we all just came together and did our own jobs,” said Tylar Turnbull, team captain. “Once we figured that out and got in that mindset, everything came together one by one.”
The home team came out and dominated the first set and then won the second set, too, but VIU, the veteran-laden defending champs, knew the match was far from over.
“Until that heartbeat goes away, we’ve just got to keep pumping it,” said Shane Hyde, coach of the Mariners.
Down two sets to none, there was pressure, but at the same time, Turnbull said, there wasn’t any pressure, because at that point, the Mariners felt like they had nothing to lose and could go out there and just play volleyball.
VIU made minor adjustments to the game plan, said Hyde, including on blocking and defence, and tried to attack more often from the middle of the court.
“Just little things,” said Kelsey Johnson, VIU libero. “We had a game plan going into it and we stuck to it pretty much the whole time.”
What changed was that the Mariners had another level of volleyball. Midway through that gold-medal match, VIU’s power hitters started making kills with deadly accuracy. The defence started digging out every Chargers attack.
“We just had a united mindset that we were not going to let any ball touch the ground without any sort of effort and we were all going to put each other on our back and we were going to win this game,” Johnson said. “We really wanted to work together and I think we did.”
It carried into the fifth set. The M’s somehow looked calm in building an 8-3 lead at the side switch, and although they gave it all back to fall behind 10-9, they regained control. Match point was a wild rally that ended with a kill from Megan Groenendijk, player of the game.
The comeback victory was a microcosm of the season for the VIU Mariners – falling behind, facing adversity and overcoming.
“Every time something good would happen, we’d get kicked right back down,” Johnson said. “So watching us grow from the beginning, it’s just incredible how far we’ve come.”
Turnbull, Groenendijk and Johnson were selected as tournament all-stars.
The M’s women will compete at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championships in Longueuil, Que. beginning March 12.
The VIU Mariners men’s volleyball team ended its season with bronze medals, defeating the Columbia Bible College Bearcats earlier Saturday by scores of 25-22, 28-26, 27-25.