VIU celebrates banner year

Vancouver Island University men’s and women’s teams in volleyball and basketball reached the end of their respective seasons.

Bronze, silver and even gold. As usual, there was no shortage of medals again this year as Vancouver Island University men’s and women’s teams in volleyball and basketball reached the end of their respective seasons. A look back this week at how the various teams fared…

Onto the volleyball court first, where the VIU men’s team went 16-8 on their season in the Pacific Western Athletic Association. That made the team the second seed heading into the PacWest provincial championships held in Cranbrook and gave them a first-round bye. The VIU squad advanced to the gold medal game, but then fell victim to the underdog Capilano Blues and had to settle for the silver medal in the final. Still, the result gave the Mariners a wild card berth to the nationals and they travelled to Welland, Ont., to compete at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association Championships earlier this month.

There, the young team opened with a loss, but followed that with a pair of wins. That put VIU into the bronze medal game, where they were defeated by Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Trojans. Even so, it was a fine season for players Marco Arnold, Greg Howe, Adam Tishenko, Diego Bustos, Dillon Collett, Wayne Woyciehouski, Tyler Berthelsen, Niall Cobbe, Trevor Dykshoorn, Zach Grigg, Tory Zaytsoff, Nick Stefankis and Lee Hamilton who was named as CCAA men’s volleyball player of the year. Head coach for the team was Abe Avender, assisted by Graham Sigalet, Riley Kaminski and Iain Harrington.

The VIU women’s volleyball squad this year had a strong season with a 21-3 record and had high hopes of defending the national championship they won last year. Things didn’t go their way, however. As number two seed in the provincial championships, the Mariners had a bye in the opening round. But the locals were then upset in the semi-final by the Columbia Bible College Bearcats. The Mariners rebounded to win the bronze medal match against Capilano University Blues, but the third-place result did not allow the team to advance to the nationals.

To their credit, the team handled their disappointment with class and could still reflect on a very successful season. Head coach was Shane Hyde and assistants were Danielle Hyde, Rob Barcelos, Tamara Rosenlund and Meghan Carver. For his efforts, Hyde was named as CCAA coach of the year. Also honoured were players Leeana Gildersleeve and Dani Smith as all-Canadians. Others on the squad were Tylar Turnball, Paige Wiebe, Ashley Cousens, Megan Rosenlund, Marlie Temple, Sandra Veikle, Alyssa Wolf, Ashley Van Acken, Kailey Dodd, Megan Groenendijk, Kenzie McDonald and Martina Mazzei.

On the basketball court, both VIU teams finished league play in second place. The men posted a 16-5 season, while the women fought back from a terrible first half of the year to finish strongly at 15-6. At provincials in Victoria, the women continued their roll, capturing the first provincial championship in 15 years with a 65-55 win over the Capilano Blues. The men, meanwhile, also played well in claiming a silver medal. VIU fell 78-74 in the final game.

Then it was off to nationals in Truro, Nova Scotia, for the Mariner women, where they eventually lost 72-55 to Olds College Broncos in the bronze medal qualifying game. As a result, VIU ended in a fifth-place tie with Algonquin College. Mariner players were Megan Cawthorne, Jamie MacFarlane, Jenna Carver, Jami Oliver, Heather McCarthy, Viv Veerman, Shayna Worthington, Erin Vekic, Jolene Nagy, Alicia Grossi and all-Canadian Jocelyn Jones. Coaching the team was Bill McWhinnie, assisted by Alix Stupich.

For the local men, however, everything fell into place. Entering the national tournament in Montreal as the number six seed, the Mariners surprised everybody by advancing to the championship final. They capped things off by claiming the gold medal with an inspired 77-70 victory over Holland College Hurricanes. The win marked the first national championship for a Mariner team in nineteen years.

The achievement also marked quite a debut for first-year head coach Matt Kuzminski, who was assisted by Avneet Brar, Scott Marr and Djimith Ndiaye. On the championship men’s team were players Connor Billett, Jon Bethell, Harrison Stupich, Evan Verdel, Trevor Davidson, Adam Connolly, Ryan Davidson, Clayton Billett, Jess Black, Jason McKee, Tyler Olsen, Eric D’Andrea and all-Canadian PacWest Player of the Year Brandon Jones.

Whatever your sport, a reminder in closing to play your hardest, play fair, and show good sportsmanship.