Sienna Pollard

Sienna Pollard

VIU Mariners elevated by all-star

Sienna Pollard leads Mariners women's basketball team into provincial championships.

Sienna Pollard is central to the VIU Mariners’ fortunes, and opponents know it. Depending on how they set up their defences, they can make things difficult for her. And yet she finds a way.

“It’s her intelligence that’s been getting her open shots and her ability to do so many things allows her to be tough to match up with,” said Bill McWhinnie, coach of Vancouver Island University’s women’s basketball team.

Pollard, a graduating forward from Auburn, Wash., is nearing the end of her tenure on the Mariners team. Last year’s PacWest Player of the Year has had another all-star campaign in 2016-17 and is in the top five in the conference in scoring (15.6 points per game), rebounding (9.4) and assists (3.2).

She’s been doing it all, and she’s had to, particularly because the Mariners have been so injury-riddled this season.

“She’s played every position on the floor and excelled at all of it,” McWhinnie said.

Pollard came to VIU from Washington’s Highline College, from which the Mariners also recruited past all-stars Jocelyn Jones and Lanae Adams.

“Since I was in high school I kind of wanted to experience Canada, not just visit…” Pollard said. “I just wanted to do something different and see another part of the world, even though we’re not that far apart. We’re very different, though.”

It’s worked out well, and Canadian college hoops have been fun for her.

“I’ve never loved basketball so much as I have since I’ve moved here,” Pollard said.

She got to play in nationals her first year with the Mariners as VIU hosted the tourney that year, then, last season, the M’s earned their way there as provincial champions. Now, in Pollard’s graduating year, she’s helped put her team in contention again as the No. 3 seed going into PacWest championships.

“This is her team and she’s definitely taken on that role of being a leader…” McWhinnie said. “She’s got more confidence this year and she realizes that she is the leader of this team and she’s been fantastic.”

The best could be still to come. Pollard said other teams around the PacWest might have already reached their peak, but the Mariners haven’t yet.

“We have advantages on every team in some way or another and the same for the other teams, they have advantages on us in some way or another, and we’re just going to have to be the better team each game…” she said. “We know what we need to do and we know what we’re capable of, so I believe when it’s crunch time we’re going to get it done.”

Pollard has given some thought, too, to what’s next for her after her final playoff run. Ideally, she’d like to return to VIU in the fall and coach and collect prerequisite credits for further studies in dietetics, but being an international student complicates that path.

“I’ve been playing basketball for 18 years straight, and everyone, their time all comes to an end. I’ve been enjoying my last year,” she said. “Regardless [how playoffs go], I’m going to be proud of my team and myself and the accomplishments that we’ve gained together. Obviously I want to win, I want to extend my season for as long as I can, but at the end of the day, it’s all been a good experience.”

GAME ON … The VIU women begin PacWest championships on Thursday (March 2) in Squamish against the Langara Falcons at 1 p.m. The VIU men are also competing at the tournament and have a bye before playing their semifinal on Friday at 8 p.m.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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