VIU teams finish exciting seasons

Sports teams from Vancouver Island University were busy on the court recently. In fact, both men’s and women’s volleyball and basketball teams have just concluded exciting seasons. The past two weeks have brought successful and satisfying results at the provincial and even national levels, but there has also been a touch of disappointment. So a recap this week of how the Mariner teams fared in their respective competitions…

First to the volleyball court, where the VIU women’s team went 13-1 and finished first in B.C. Colleges’ Athletic Association league play. Only a final-match loss to UBC-Okanagan prevented an undefeated season, but the M’s still went to provincials in Kelowna as the top-seeded team. There, the locals advanced to the championship final. But again host UBC-O proved a nemesis, winning the final by scores of 25-27, 25-19, 25-21, 20-25, 15-7. The results meant a provincial silver medal for VIU and the women advanced to the Canadian Colleges’ Athletic Association championships in Saint John, N.B.

At the nationals, the Mariners began by beating Grande Prairie, then got some revenge with a semi-final victory over UBC-Okanagan. That put the M’s in the national final against Mount Royal. VIU led the best of five match two sets to one and were just one point away from clinching the title when controversy stole their momentum. The referee’s signal that Nanaimo had the winning point had the team celebrating on the court. But the decision was then reversed and the point given to Mount Royal. Unable to regain focus, VIU dropped the set 26-24 and then lost the deciding set 15-10.

Still, a national silver medal was a great result for the VIU squad, consisting of players Alison Mullock, Paige Wiebe, Lindsay McLoughlin, Dani Smith, Jacqueline Doleman, Cheyla Reader, Tamara Rosenlund, Heather Huxham, Sandra Veikle, Kaitie Whiteley, Madison Maher, Shenise Power, Hayley Pateman and Sanda Babic. Head coach was Shane Hyde, assisted by Danielle Hyde and Alicia Wynia.

Rob Barcelos and Abe Avender were co-coaches of the VIU men’s volleyball squad this season, assisted by Raf Korkowski and Graham Sigalet. On the player roster were Jeremy Kler, Lee Hamilton, Braden O’Toole, Greg Howe, Brennan Veeken, Rylan Brouwer, Marc Camenzind, Brett Weninger, Nigel Proch, Mark Lemercier, Jozef Bienkowski-Gibbs, Ryan Thibault, Jan Engel and Joe Holder. The men went 8-6 in the regular season, then competed at the BCCAA playoffs in Kelowna. There they placed fourth, falling in five sets to Douglas College in the bronze-medal game.

Meanwhile on the basketball court, there was also success for VIU teams. The women’s program this season was guided by Bill McWhinnie, assisted by Catriona Smith. The Mariners compiled a 15-3 regular season to finish second in the BCCAA standings. At the provincial tournament in Abbotsford, Nanaimo lost a tough semifinal game 61-57 to UBC-O.

That sent the team to the consolation round, where they lost the bronze-medal game 62-54 to the University of Northern B.C. to end their season. Players on the VIU team were Brittany Knievel, Katie Mickolwin, Alix Stupich, Jenna Carver, Sarah Fraser, Heather McCarthy, Jodi Mitchell, Katie Pearson, Shayna Worthington, Richelle Rafnkjelson, Alicia Grossi and Kayla Gromme.

It proved to be a super year for the VIU men’s basketball team. Led by head coach Tony Bryce and assistant Henry Bui, the squad rolled to a near-perfect 17-1 record in league play. At the provincial tournament, the locals advanced to the championship game and claimed the B.C. title with a 96-90 win over UNBC.

The victory gave the Mariners a provincial gold medal, but just as importantly earned the team a trip to the CCAA national championships last week in Oshawa, Ont.

VIU got off to a good start at the nationals with a 70-61 win over host Durham. Then came a huge disappointment, however, as the team was upset 82-73 in the semifinal tilt against Lethbridge. To their credit, the Mariners regrouped with two wins in the consolation side of the draw to take the bronze medal. Certainly a great accomplishment for team players Andrew Kaban, Jacob Thom, Mike Wohlers, Harrison Stupich, Evan Verdel, Joel Schat, Clayton Billett, Jess Black, Tyler Olsen, Dakota Russell, Patrick McCarthy and Bryan Tollbom.

Whatever your sport, a reminder in closing to play your hardest, play fair, and show good sportsmanship.

Ian Thorpe writes about sports Saturdays.