VIU Mariners volleyball players Kaitlyn Vanderkooi, left, and Portia Switzer go for a dig during Sunday’s PacWest match against the Capilano Blues at the Vancouver Island University gym. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

VIU Mariners women closing in on an unbeaten season

Volleyball team in same position as a year ago

Vancouver Island University’s women’s volleyball team, two-time defending national champions, has its primary goals in mind.

But players can add another impressive accolade this coming weekend, Feb. 14-15, if they can win their last two matches.

The VIU Mariners (22-0) have a chance at a perfect PacWest season heading into the last two league matches against the Camosun Chargers. The M’s are playing some of their finest volleyball, dominating the Capilano Blues last weekend at the Vancouver Island University gym in straight sets, 25-12, 25-23, 25-14 on Saturday and then 25-10, 25-10, 25-18 on Sunday.

VIU was able to not only win, but share the ball around with some of its “supporting cast,” said coach Shane Hyde.

“Our game plan was to run a little bit more of a balanced offence, not just a high ball outside, so that was really nice to see our setters doing a good job of that,” Hyde said.

Jane Nyukhalova led the way with 10 kills Saturday and 11 more on Sunday.

“We did a good job in organization,” she said. “Everyone was fired up and focused. We kept our level really high and intensity was really high.”

Any time the visitors put together a few points in a row, the home team was able to regain control.

“They can come up and get excited to play us, but then when they see the pressure that we’re coming at them [with], from every aspect of our game, from the rightside to the middle to the leftside to the back row, we have an answer for a lot of things and this team is dialled in pretty good right now,” Hyde said.

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VIU has completed an undefeated season before, but not since the PacWest expanded the number of matches on the schedule. Last year, the Mariners were unbeaten until they lost the second-to-last match of the season to the Camosun Chargers and this year, it’s second-place Camosun that will again be the final regular-season obstacle.

“We learned our lesson last year…” said Mariners veteran Andrea Cankovic. “I think this year we’re taking it one game at a time.”

Hyde said the Mariners haven’t talked about an undefeated record and have kept their focus on improving every match.

“That’s all we’ve talked about, is getting that one or two per cent better every match, so when the time comes, when it means something at provincials and hopefully nationals, we are very sharp,” he said.

He did add that he hopes the Chargers are at their best so that the final matches are good preparation for playoffs.

Nyukhalova said players are putting in effort every single day, working hard toward playoffs, but said they’d like that perfect regular-season record.

“That is something that everyone wants to do in their life, is be unbeatable, right? And that’s our goal, to stay unbeatable until the end of the season,” she said. “It builds confidence in ourselves.”

In men’s volleyball action, the Mariners split with the blues, losing in four sets Saturday and winning in four sets Sunday. Scores in the first match were 18-25, 25-18, 25-22, 27-25, with Dario De Queiroz-Pereira amassing 16 kills. In the rematch, VIU won 26-24, 25-15, 19-25, 25-23 and Isaac Bevis had 11 digs.

GAME ON … The VIU Mariners and the Camosun Chargers play Friday, Feb. 14, in Victoria, then again Saturday, Feb. 15, with the women’s match at 5 p.m. and the men’s match at 7 p.m. at the VIU gym.



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

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