VIU Mariners player Maddie McDonald passes the ball during Saturday’s PacWest match against the Camosun Chargers at the Vancouver Island University gym. GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

VIU volleyball team perfect in fall PacWest play

Mariners women 12-0 in conference and ranked No. 1 nationally

The VIU Mariners finished an undefeated fall, and continuing to win volleyball matches is what they’ll need to do to achieve their goals.

Vancouver Island University’s women’s volleyball team had a perfect 12-0 start to the Pacific Western Athletic Association season after sweeping a home-and-home series against the Camosun Chargers this past weekend. Saturday’s fall finale saw the M’s handle the Chargers 25-19, 25-15, 25-13.

“We really wanted, from start to finish, to be more cohesive and really work together…” said Taylor Wickson, VIU middle. “It was just flowing – good pass, good set, good hit.”

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Shane Hyde, VIU coach, said the team had players taking on expanded roles due to injuries, and with the match well under control, the Mariners were able to get even more players out on the court.

“To end the [fall] season off with everybody getting in and actually contributing and playing well, we couldn’t ask for a better end,” he said. “I’ve never had a team with this much depth; I’ve never had a team with this much talent. Some of those kids sitting on that bench would be starters on every other program here in the PacWest.”

The perfect record isn’t something that the Mariners discuss much, they say, though they suspect other programs have noticed. The M’s are the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s top-ranked team.

“Whether we like it or not, we’re that team that’s well in the lead and so now we have to play with a little bit more of a spine; we’ve got to have this quiet confidence about ourselves, because everybody in the country is now legitimately gunning for us,” Hyde said.

He did point out that VIU’s last two national championship teams weren’t among the program’s best, record-wise, but won at the right time.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if we’re perfect – it’s really nice,” Wickson said.

She said the undefeated record gives VIU confidence and can intimidate opposing teams, but at the same time, puts a target on the Mariners’ backs.

A closer look at the team’s record shows that not only are they 12-0, but they’ve won 36 of their 39 sets this season.

“If we play with this attitude where even a set is important to not drop, then I think that’s going to strengthen our season in the second half,” Hyde said.

The Mariners won’t be travelling to warmer climes this holiday season, as is often the case, and instead will keep sharp at a tournament on the Lower Mainland that will feature some higher-tier competition. Hyde said he doesn’t worry about the team losing a step over the Christmas break because “these girls are dialled in.”

Wickson said the Mariners are playing well individually and at the same time with teamwork and a sense of family.

“We need to focus on our goals, stick to teamwork, being positive and just pushing forward one step at a time,” she said. “We’re not trying to look at the end goal. We’d love to repeat at nationals again, but at the end of the day, it’s one weekend at a time and we really have to take it slow.”

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