VIU men ready for physical challenge

The college volleyball season, more than ever, is going to be a grind, so the Vancouver Island University Mariners men’s team has dedicated itself to superior conditioning.

VIU Mariners volleyball player Milo Warren receives a serve during practice Tuesday at the Vancouver Island University gym.

VIU Mariners volleyball player Milo Warren receives a serve during practice Tuesday at the Vancouver Island University gym.

The college volleyball season, more than ever, is going to be a grind.

The schedule makers at the Pacific Western Athletic Association upped the number of matches for 2011-12, from 14 all the way to 24.

Teams will respond to the challenge in various ways. The Vancouver Island University Mariners men’s team has dedicated itself to superior conditioning.

“The guys have bought into it, to stay fit and stay solid, where you don’t run into injuries after 24 matches,” said Abe Avender, coach of the M’s.

Even with the additional focus on conditioning, the game-play preparations haven’t suffered. Avender said he’s happier than ever with what he’s seeing from the 2011-12 Mariners.

It’s a veteran group. Lee Hamilton, in the middle, and leftside hitter Joe Holder are the returning all-stars and leftside Nigel Proch and setter Brett Weninger are two veteran leaders. Milo Warren, returning from a stint with the UBC Thunderbirds, has a chance to be a dominant force in PacWest.

The conference looks to have a lot of parity this season, so VIU can definitely help its cause with a couple of victories this weekend as the College of the Rockies Avalanche visit the VIU gym.

“It’ll be a good challenge but if we play well we’ll come out on top,” said the coach. “We’re a deep enough team and we’ve got enough tools, I think, that they can go to work.”

GAME ON … VIU’s men’s volleyball team faces COTR on Saturday (Oct. 15) at 7:45 p.m. The rematch is Sunday at 12:45 p.m.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com