The first match of the season seems a long way away from a national championship, and all that hoopla, and intensity and emotion.
But it’s an important part of the journey.
The Vancouver Island University Mariners women’s volleyball team stepped back on the court this past weekend and soundly whipped the Camosun Chargers to begin the 2012-13 Pacific Western Athletic Association season.
It’s going to be an interesting season for the M’s ladies. Most every VIU Nation fan vividly remembers the way last year ended, with a national championship celebration right at centre court of the VIU gymnasium. Winning it all, in their home gym, is an impossible act for the M’s women to follow. And that’s OK, they say.
“Coming into this season, we needed to start fresh, a clean slate from last season and look on to how we’re going to build this team, and set new goals for this team,” said Leanna Gildersleeve, who was MVP of nationals.
Dani Smith, veteran setter, said her team tries to keep in mind that this season is a completely new one.
“We go back and reflect on the good things, but continue staying in the moment and staying in the present,” she said. “Because it’s about the process and focusing on each individual component of it.”
So the first few matches of the PacWest season are part of that. The Mariners said there were some nerves and shaky play in the first match against Camosun, even though they won 25-18, 25-20, 25-21. The next night, they said, was better, with a similar scoreline of 25-20, 25-15, 25-23.
The roster has seen some arrivals and departures since nationals, but the core has remained intact. Of the six players who were on the court for championship point, four return – Smith, power hitters Gildersleeve and Alyssa Wolf and middle Marlie Temple. Some other returnees are libero Sandra Veikle, middle Tylar Turnball and rightside Paige Wiebe and the group of rookies is led by libero Megan Rosenlund and power Megan Groenendijk.
There’s great depth again, said Smith, which makes for productive scrimmages.
“Our six-on-six is amazing,” she said. “We have the best competition you could ask for and it’s right in our gym.”
The group is willing to work hard and take this season a step at a time. Smith said Mariners will set “mini goals” leading up to their ultimate goal.
“As soon as you set that goal that you want to win nationals, it fuels the fire and we want to do it,” Gildersleeve said.
And they want it every bit as much as they did a year ago.
“We had that feeling, and that’s the feeling that everyone in our league, everyone who plays sports tries to go for to be the best,” said Smith. “We felt it, and it’s something we want to replicate.”
GAME ON … The Mariners visit Columbia Bible College this Friday (Oct. 19) and Saturday. The team’s home opener isn’t until Nov. 9 … To read about VIU’s men’s volleyball team, please click here.