VIU Mariners player Ashley Van Acken goes for a kill during a match against the Capilano Blues last month at the Vancouver Island University gym. Provincials start Thursday (Feb. 26) in Victoria.

VIU Mariners player Ashley Van Acken goes for a kill during a match against the Capilano Blues last month at the Vancouver Island University gym. Provincials start Thursday (Feb. 26) in Victoria.

VIU v-ball rising up for provincials

The Pacific Western Athletic Association championships start Thursday (Feb. 26) in Victoria.

Playoffs are often compared to a battle.

If that’s the case, then the VIU Mariners women’s volleyball team, season-long battlers, should be more ready than most.

The Pacific Western Athletic Association championships start Thursday (Feb. 26) in Victoria and the Vancouver Island University Mariners expect to be right in the thick of things.

The M’s women (16-8) earned the No. 3 seed, no small feat after an 0-5 start to the campaign.

“I knew it was going to be some bumpy rides up till Christmas, and I knew that the second half was going to be our time to peak,” said Shane Hyde, coach of the Mariners women.

But it was bumpier than the M’s could have expected – disqualification, suspension, illness and major injuries all tested the team.

“It definitely left us with a group of girls who are willing to go above and beyond to be good and to make changes and to get better as players and as a team,” said Ashley Van Acken, VIU veteran. “All of the bad things that happened this year act as a strength for us now because we know how to overcome adversity.”

The Mariners were forced into changing the lineup and the game plan, and found some things that worked.

“We’ve balanced our attack out from every position and just started to believe,” Hyde said.

The Mariners lost just two matches in second semester, and won matches against those opponents, too.

“This is exactly what we wanted,” said the coach. “We have the matchups we wanted, we’re on the other side of [the host Camosun Chargers], everything has lined up like we needed it to and wanted it to and now it’s just a matter of executing.”

If the M’s win their first two matches, they secure a berth in nationals, a place in the PacWest final and a chance at a championship.

“Any team in this league is beatable,” Van Acken said. “And with everything that we’ve come through, we’re a really strong team now.”

GAME ON … The Mariners women play the Douglas Royals on Thursday at 1 p.m. at Victoria’s Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence. VIU’s men’s volleyball team, also a No. 3 seed, faces the Capilano Blues on Thursday at 3 p.m. at the same venue.

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