VIU Mariners player Shelby Dorman-Banks sets the ball at practice Tuesday at the Vancouver Island University gym.

VIU Mariners player Shelby Dorman-Banks sets the ball at practice Tuesday at the Vancouver Island University gym.

VIU Mariners volleyball gets set for new season

The Vancouver Island University Mariners, defending B.C. champions in women’s volleyball, take the court this week (Oct. 17-18).

The eve of the season is like that moment, right before the first serve, when anything can happen.

The Vancouver Island University Mariners, defending B.C. champions in women’s volleyball, take the court this week (Oct. 17-18) for the first time in 2015-16.

They know this much – they’re a good team in a good league. Everything else is yet to be determined.

“It’s time to start playing. I need to see where we’re at, for real…” said Shane Hyde, the squad’s longtime coach. “It’s time to actually put real team versus real team and then see where our weaknesses are.”

The Mariners women will be playing a real team, all right – the season starts with a rematch of last winter’s B.C. final against Victoria’s Camosun Chargers.

For a few years, the Island rivalry might have been exaggerated, but not anymore, now that both squads are powerhouses in the Pacific Western Athletic Association.

“Camosun is a legit, solid program [that] finished higher than we did at nationals last year… It’s going to be a grudge match, for sure,” Hyde said.

Friday’s match takes place in Victoria, on the same court on which VIU captured the last PacWest championship.

“I think once we get out there, all our nerves are going to be there, but somehow we’re going to be able to channel it all into this fun energy,” said Megan Rosenlund, VIU veteran. “And it’s going to be really intense for the first league game, which I hope it is, because it’s much more fun that way.”

The Chargers have a wealth of outside hitters, but the Mariners boast a talented roster, too. The M’s will be led again this year by middle Tylar Turnbull, along with the versatile Rosenlund and rightside Mikayla Wagner. Chantal Cumming returns as setter, but rookie Shelby Dorman-Banks will also play that position.

Hyde said both setters favour a faster-tempo offence than usual at VIU, but the connections are starting to come on the court, and off the court, for that matter.

“Everyone is on the same page; everyone is trying to achieve the same goals,” Rosenlund said.

The next step toward those goals is game action, and it’s going to be a challenge this week and every week.

“We’re still VIU. We’re still the defending champs. Everybody’s gunning for us,” Hyde said.

GAME ON … The Mariners women’s and men’s volleyball teams start the PacWest season against the Chargers on Friday on the road, then play their home openers against the same opponent on Saturday at the VIU gym. The women’s match is at 5 p.m. with the men to follow at 7 p.m.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com