The VIU Mariners get a golden opportunity this week.
Vancouver Island University’s men’s and women’s basketball teams tip off tomorrow (March 1) at the Pacific Western Athletic Association championships in Victoria, and both are in contention to win it all.
The men’s and women’s Mariners teams both go into the tournament with No. 2 seeds.
The M’s men (16-5) will play the winner of a quarter-final matchup today (Feb. 28) between the Quest Kermodes and Camosun Chargers.
“I think we’re peaking at just the right time…” said Tyler Olsen, VIU forward. “We’re definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with coming up in provincials no matter who we play.”
The M’s have had ample time to prepare. It’s been a week and a half since the end of the PacWest season, and it’s reading break right now, so coach Matt Kuzminski said his guys have had a chance to get in a few extra shots in the gym.
He said the quarter-final between Quest and Camo will be a tough one for those teams. Whichever one advances, Kuzminski said his team is familiar with both potential opponents.
The Mariners will seek to force the style of play, either way.
“Defensively we have our principles that work against any team. We try to enhance those every day in practice and we stick by those in a game,” Kuzminski said. “[Offensively] we know what kind of shots we want to get. We want to play aggressive and up tempo, but smart.”
The PacWest gets two berths at the Canadian Colleges’ Athletic Association championships, so if the M’s win tomorrow, their season continues, no matter what happens in the next day’s provincial final. Nationals are something to shoot for, especially for the team’s only graduating fifth-year, Olsen.
“It’s all I think about; it’s all I want to do, is win,” he said. “If I have to score, rebound, play defence, whatever it takes to win is all I want to do.”
VIU’s women’s team (15-6) is also setting its goals high. It goes into playoffs as the PacWest’s hottest team, having won nine of its last 10 games.
The M’s women will face the winner of a quarter-final today between the Douglas Royals and Camosun.
“I think what it’s going to come down to is how we play,” said Shayna Worthington, VIU forward. “The intensity we bring and the heart that we put into it, that will determine the outcome of the game no matter who we’re playing.”
The M’s women can force their pace, Worthington said, if they’re sharp, if they communicate on the court and play a team game.
As one of the favourites, they’re confident, but they recognize the task at hand.
“This is the weekend that it all comes down to. This is where it means most,” Worthington said. “We’re a hard-working team and we’re all striving towards the same goal.”
GAME ON … VIU’s women’s basketball team plays its semifinal Friday at 1 p.m. at Victoria’s Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence. The M’s men take the court at 3 p.m.