A pair of Island rivalry matches are all that separate the VIU Mariners women’s volleyball team from a perfect PacWest season.
Vancouver Island University’s women’s v-ball team swept its matches against the College of the Rockies Avalanche last week at the VIU gym to push their record to 22-0 with one weekend of action left in the regular season.
The Mariners women didn’t spend much of the season talking about their record, but they’re willing to talk about it now.
“The approach has been, let’s put a little pressure on ourselves with this record now, because in two weeks’ time, we’re going to have to be playing a must-win game and every game from then on is a must-win,” said Shane Hyde, the team’s coach.
Taylor Wickson, VIU middle, said this late in the season, the M’s would rather avoid a setback.
“If we do lose a game, we’re not really going to learn anything from it, is what Shane says, it’s just going to really hurt and really suck,” Wickson said. “So we’re really trying to bear down. We’ve got two left, we’re playing for a perfect season. No one else in our conference has that kind of pressure but I think we’re excited about it.”
This past week against a struggling COTR team, VIU paid attention to its own side of the court and was able to improve over the course of the two matches. The Mariners won in straight sets both days, but starters and bench players had a more focused effort in the rematch, said Hyde.
“All the way down our lineup we’ve got talent. At this point, it’s a balance that you play because you want to keep the starters sharp and you want to feel that comfort … but on the flipside you want to get those players in that deserve to get some minutes. And the rest and the injuries, all that stuff kind of plays in,” Hyde said. “So it’s a bit of a juggling act in terms of who goes in there and where they go in.”
Wickson said the team’s depth and balance will make them more versatile in the playoffs, and she said the Mariners are able to make it work because they have such good team chemistry that they’re happy to see teammates get chances to contribute in all situations.
The final weekend of PacWest play will represent more of the same, but intensified – the M’s will take on the Camosun Chargers looking to hone their game, go unbeaten, and win on seniors’ night for team captain Chantal Cumming, whom Wickson described as the leader, mom and heart and soul of the team.
“We’re going to be chasing the 24-0, they’re going to be trying to clinch third place, and then you’ve got seniors’ night,” Hyde said. “So it’s going to be a packed house and it’s going to be a great atmosphere.”
Wickson said the Mariners are excited to face the Chargers.
“I think they’re a great team to end our regular season with,” she said. “Going into provincials, we’re going to see teams like that, so I think it’s a good starting point for us.”
The VIU women beat COTR on Thursday by scores of 25-6, 25-21, 25-14, then won Friday’s rematch by scores of 25-9, 25-18, 25-16.
In men’s action, the Mariners also swept their matches in straight sets, winning 25-12, 25-20, 25-23 on Thursday and then 25-20, 25-23, 25-19 on Friday.
GAME ON … The Mariners and the Chargers play at the Vancouver Island University gymnasium Friday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m., though fans are advised to arrive at 5:45 p.m. as there will be a pre-game ceremony to recognize Cumming. The men’s match starts at 8 p.m.