VIU volleyball set for big matches

VIU Mariners player Ryan Thibault sets the ball during a match against the Capilano Blues at the Vancouver Island University gymnasium Saturday. The M's won the match 25-21

VIU Mariners player Ryan Thibault sets the ball during a match against the Capilano Blues at the Vancouver Island University gymnasium Saturday. The M's won the match 25-21

There couldn’t be a better way for the VIU Mariners volleyball teams to get into playoff form.

Vancouver Island University’s women’s and men’s volleyball teams both conclude their B.C. Colleges’ Athletic Association seasons Saturday (Feb. 5) with matches in Kelowna against the first-place UBC-Okanagan Heat.

The men’s match is significant in the standings, since the VIU men (8-5) still have a chance to claim second place behind UBC-O (11-1) and earn an important first-round bye at provincials.

The women’s match, meanwhile, carries a lot of cachet as the VIU Mariners (13-0) are the country’s top-ranked team and UBC-O (12-1) is the two-time defending national champion.

The Mariners still regard the Heat with some trepidation, but coach Shane Hyde said those feelings are tempered by the fact that VIU beat UBC-O earlier this season and has gotten even better since then.

“We’re ranked No. 1 for a reason, because we are playing some extremely good volleyball,” the coach said.

Aside from the desire to beat the Heat, the M’s women are playing for first place in the league. VIU will capture first if it wins the match or loses in five sets. The team’s primary goals are provincial and national championships, but Hyde said the road will be easier if the M’s can clinch first and go into provincials on the top half of the draw.

As for the undefeated season, it would just be a bonus, but it’s one worth trying for.

“Any time that you have a team that works this hard and is such an awesome squad to coach, of course you want every bit of success you can,” Hyde said. “In that regard, I’d love to have an undefeated season because these girls have earned it.”

Both Mariner teams were winners last weekend in their home gym to give themselves momentum heading into their last matches.

VIU’s women’s team began the weekend with a dominating three-set victory over the Douglas Royals on Friday, 25-12, 25-13, 25-9, then handled the Capilano Blues the next day by scores of 25-22, 25-18, 25-15.

The Mariners men defeated Douglas on Friday by scores of 25-16, 25-19, 21-25, 25-18, then swept past Cap on Saturday, 25-21, 25-21, 25-22.

The matches were the last-ever home games for two graduating fifth-year veterans, Lindsay McLoughlin and Ryan Thibault.

COURT SHORTS … VIU power hitter Cheyla Reader was selected the BCCAA’s Athlete of the Week for her efforts in last weekend’s victories. She made 13 kills in the team’s win over Douglas, then added 16 kills, 11 digs and three blocks in the next day’s victory.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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