Vancouver Island University Mariners volleyball player Leanna Gildersleeve returns a serve during the Pacific Western Athletic Association championship match Saturday in North Vancouver.

Well-rounded Mariners win provincials

Vancouver Island University’s women’s volleyball team won the PacWest championship on Saturday in North Vancouver.

The kills came smashing down from every which way, and the VIU Mariners were the only ones left standing.

Vancouver Island University’s women’s volleyball team won the provincial championship on Saturday in North Vancouver, defeating the host Capilano Blues in straight sets.

“We played very efficient, I thought,” said Shane Hyde, coach of the VIU women. “Some different people stepped up.”

VIU handled the Camosun Chargers in straight sets in Friday’s semifinal, winning 25-14, 25-17, 25-21, then beat Cap 27-25, 25-17, 25-16.

“Once we kind of relaxed and got halfway through the second [set], we just totally took control of the match,” said Hyde.

VIU went into the Pacific Western Athletic Association championships as the favoured team, but didn’t take any opponent for granted. Last year the M’s were upset in the semis and that had been weighing on them for 12 months.

“As much as we tried to deflect that and not talk about it, the pressure to win that first game was huge this year,” Hyde said. “So the girls pretty much celebrated after that game like it was a provincial final.”

The semifinal win assured the M’s of at least a wild-card berth at nationals, but as it turned out they were more than capable of winning their way there. The Mariners women showcased a well-rounded game, as setter Ashley Cousens went with more of a middle attack than usual.

Tylar Turnbull was player of the match in the final, while Megan Groenendijk was player of the match in the semis.

“As a setter you always kind of go with the hot hand and for some reason with the matchups we had, it allowed those two to be open more,” the coach said. “Our power hitters were keyed on a little bit more. Obviously people know our team. But as the match started to unfold it opened up our power hitters, as well.”

Match point came on a botched serve from Cap, and the Mariners could celebrate their provincial title. Power hitter Leanna Gildersleeve got to win a championship in her hometown, and Cousens got to win her first gold medal, in her final year of college v-ball, against her former team.

“It was a proud moment to see some of those kids and see where they started off and now see how well they’re playing,” Hyde said.

That level of play has come because of top-to-bottom effort since the beginning of the season, the coach said.

“Out of my numerous years at VIU, this is by far the team that has worked the hardest, as far as their workout regimes and their dedication to our practices,” said Hyde. “We’ve really worked them hard this year and they’ve bought into it.”

COURT SHORTS … The Canadian Colleges’ Athletic Association women’s volleyball championships will be held at Toronto’s Seneca College from March 5-8 … At provincials, Turnbull was selected tournament MVP and Cousens and Groenendijk were chosen as all-stars … League awards were also announced. Gildersleeve is the PacWest Player of the Year and she and Ashley Van Acken are first-team all-stars, Turnbull and Alyssa Wolf are second-team all-stars, Mychaela Roelants made the all-rookie team and Hyde is Coach of the Year … VIU’s men’s volleyball team lost its quarter-final match Thursday at provincials, falling to the eventual-champion Douglas Royals in five sets, 25-23, 25-13, 12-25, 24-26, 15-10 … Zach Grigg and Dillon Collett were second-team PacWest all-stars for 2013-14.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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