When you’re ranked No. 1 in the country, every other team in the nation is gunning for you.
That’s just how the 11-1 Vancouver Island Mariners men’s volleyball team likes it, says coach Abe Avender.
The Mariners have held the top spot nationally for five weeks and has just one loss – against the Douglas College Royals on Oct. 28.
“We like it this way,” said Avender. “When everybody is looking to beat us, we get up for every game, the guys are into it and focused, and we keep finding new ways to win. It keeps us sharp.”
VIU currently sits on top of the Pacific Western Athletic Association standings as the teams head in to the six-week Christmas break.
Douglas continues to stalk VIU from second place with a 9-3 record, while Vancouver’s Columbia Bible College, last year’s national champs, is in third place at 7-5. CBC hosts the national championships this year.
To prepare for what is expected to be a tough second half to the season, Avender and his squad will be heading to San Diego Dec. 28 to Jan. 3 with five other Canadian teams – including four of the Top 15 ranked teams in Canada – to keep sharp over the break.
“It’s great competition and a great way to burn some turkey off and get guys ready,” said Avender. “I’ve learned that when players go their separate ways over the break, they sort of come back and have lost that cohesion and it takes a while. In San Diego, we live in the same house, eat dinners, all of our meals together, and play against some good competition.”
The Mariner men have another challenge on their hands in San Diego, which is staying focused. There will be five Canadian women’s volleyball teams, including the lady Mariners, who will be sharing the facilities at the San Diego Volleyball Club at the same time.
Avender laughed off the distraction.
“The girls’ budget is a little bigger than ours. They stay in this beautiful mansion on the water, while we stay inland sort of roughing it,” he laughed.
The Mariners will be thrown right into their biggest test the first weekend back – he squad is scheduled to play Douglas.