VIU volleyball: Up and at ’em

The VIU Mariners finished last season playing national-championship calibre volleyball, and they’d like to get the chance to do it again.

VIU Mariners volleyball player Diego Bustos goes for a kill in practice Tuesday evening at the Vancouver Island University gymnasium.

VIU Mariners volleyball player Diego Bustos goes for a kill in practice Tuesday evening at the Vancouver Island University gymnasium.

The VIU Mariners finished last season playing national-championship calibre volleyball, and they’d like to get the chance to do it again.

Vancouver Island University’s men’s v-ball team begins the 2013-14 season this Friday (Oct. 11), hosting the Camosun Chargers.

The M’s team that takes the floor will include 10 returnees from last year’s squad that placed fourth at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championships.

“It’s a lot of the same crew that had that great experience last year to go to nationals, and they’re that much older…” said Abe Avender, the team’s coach. “A lot of them left there with a bit of a taste, like, ‘I’ve got to get back here’ … My mentality is, I should be at that show every year and that’s what I want these guys to have.”

First things first, though, and an always challenging Pacific Western Athletic Association schedule begins this weekend with home-and-home matches against the Chargers.

The M’s will be without three of their four middles due to injury and other reasons, so they’ll be in tough versus the Chargers. Camo is a perennial contender in the PacWest and will be bringing a veteran team to the VIU gym.

“There’s no team that’s more fun to beat if you ask me,” Avender said. “If we can limit our errors and serve well, there’s a really good opportunity for us to win.”

The coach said players reported in great shape and are moving around and jumping well for this stage of the fall.

The Mariners will be led this year by second-year leftside Zach Grigg, who Avender said is a fit, fast and physical player with a “nuclear” serve and a deadly kill.

“He hits the ball harder than everyone on this team and you don’t dig his ball,” said the coach.

Joining Grigg on the left are Greg Howe and Rylan Brouwer, who returns to the VIU program after a year playing at the university level.

Diego Bustos is becoming a leader on the rightside, and Dillon Collett is another hard hitter at the position.

Adam Tishenko returns as setter and Carson McCormack will start at middle.

“My expectations for the season are high,” Avender said. “I think this group’s going to evolve probably more than any one that I’ve had.”

The Mariners and Chargers men play Friday at 8 p.m. at the VIU gymnasium. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for alumni and seniors, $2 for youths and free for VIU students and staff.

M’s women intent on toughening up

The VIU Mariners plan to play proactive volleyball this season.

Vancouver Island University’s women’s v-ball team is setting a few goals at this time of year as it begins the 2013-14 PacWest season with a match against Camosun on Friday (Oct. 11).

Looking back on last year, the VIU ladies perhaps didn’t identify their weakness until it was too late and they had gotten upset in the provincial semifinals.

“As much as we said we had depth, we didn’t have as much depth because we hadn’t put them in those stressful situations,” said Shane Hyde, the team’s coach.

Usually he likes his team to push around the rest of the PacWest, hardly dropping any sets along the way.

“This year it’s about the process,” Hyde said. “It’s not because we’re any weaker than we were last year – because in a lot of ways I think we’re stronger than we were last year – but we need to maybe muscle through some of those mid-season matches and get some experience.”

They’ll play to win, but sometimes if it takes four or five sets instead of three, that’s OK.

“We’ve got that fire in us; we’ve got players like Leanna [Gildersleeve] that would dive [into the] bleachers to win every point in every match,” Hyde said. “Our goal is probably still to stay undefeated, but we’re just going to try to do it in maybe a grindier way.”

Gildersleeve and fellow power hitter Alyssa Wolf will be two of the go-to players this year. Tylar Turnbull and Ashley Van Acken are solid in the middle and Ashley Cousens takes over as setter. Megan Groenendijk will step up and start at rightside after Paige Wiebe suffered a long-term injury earlier this week. Martina Mazzei and Mychaela Roelants have shown well at libero, which will allow Megan Rosenlund to play some power.

“We’ve got kind of a little bit more balanced team, I think,” said the coach.

The M’s play the Chargers this Friday at 6 p.m. at the VIU gym.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com