Gildersleeve/Wolf feature in the Nanaimo Daily News

January 13th, 2013

Pair powering Mariners
Gildersleeve and Wolf earning their reputation as two of the province's best
 
Josh Aldrich
Daily News

 

Alyssa Wolf and Leanna Gildersleeve are at two very different points of their volleyball careers, but together the duo make up one of the most effective sets of powers in the Pacific Western Athletic Association.

Both players arrived at Vancouver Island University last year, Wolf out of high school in Surrey and Gildersleeve out of a two-year break after two years of playing in Alberta.

The younger Wolf fought for floor time last year while Gilders-leeve dominated from the outset and earned MVP honours at provincials and nationals.

Now they are powering the Mariners in their efforts to repeat both championships this year.

"Both of them have turned into go-to players within the conference," said head coach Shane Hyde.

Gildersleeve leads the Mariners in total offence with 3.12 points a set while the five-foot-nine Wolf is right behind her at 3.05 points a set. Gildersleeve also leads the Mariners with 2.60 kills a set while Wolf is second at 2.50.

Wolf leads in aces at 0.43 with Gildersleeve third with 0.33 and Wolf is third in digs with 2.53 a set.

With as many weapons as the Mariners have, they will never lead the league in a particular category.

Where Gildersleeve has shone brightest, however, is in the biggest games. She took over PacWest championships and the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championships at VIU in March. In their five-set win over the Mount Royal University Cougars, Gildersleeve had 23 kills, three aces and 13 digs.

But she says there is another level yet to her game. "I was so raw last year and now getting taught different things and breaking old habits and now especially playing next to a player Alyssa who pushes me to get better and I can learn a lot from her," she said.

The five-foot-11 Gildersleeve didn't exactly come out of nowhere. The White Rock native spent two years dominating the Alberta Colleges Athletic Association at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton where she was named all-conference. But she had questions about coming back with two years of rust.

"I feel more comfortable now," she said.

"I didn't know what I was getting into coming back. Now I have a bigger role on the team this year and now I have to learn how to be a better leader and show the younger players the ropes of being a Mariner, when last year I was getting taught that."

Wolf, meanwhile, came on strong towards the end of the season and was named to the PacWest's all-rookie team. She battled most of the year with Jenn Clayton for floor time, but has earned her starter's role this year.

Hyde says the biggest difference has been confidence.

"Leanna's fiery, she's in your face, super competitive and wants to win; Alyssa has that but she's a little more timid and she's starting to come out of her shell now," said Hyde.

"But both of them pack a lot of power in their smaller-framed bodies."

Wolf also says she feels quite a bit different about her role this year.

"I've really taken on another leadership, although I'm not a captain I like to lead by example," she said.

A big lesson she has learned this year is to not bask in what they accomplished last year.

"What's important for those that were in the national final is moving on from it because we're not the same team but we can still take glimpses of what we know to our new recruits and our rookies," she said.

As well as Wolf is playing right now, she still has not hit her ceiling. She is only five-foot-nine, but she is also just in her second year at the level. She will have three more years to develop at VIU and will play a bigger role as a veteran with each passing year.

"She is going to be an unreal player," said Gildersleeve. "This is her second year I can't wait to see what she's going to be like in her fourth and fifth year. I just want to play like her."

The Mariners have had a weird schedule to start the second half of the season. After sweeping the Capilano Blues in the first week back - Wolf earned PacWest athlete of the week honours for her efforts in the sweep - they had their bye this past week. Now they head up to Cranbrook to play the College of the Rockies Avalanche on Friday and Saturday.

Hyde says the Avalanche provide an interesting challenge, despite not being among the elite teams in the province, they are scrappy and will throw a few wrinkles the Mariners' way.

VIU is busy hunting down the University of Fraser Valley Cascades (13-1; 39-13). The Mariners (12-2; 37-6) are ranked No. 4 in the country and No. 2 in the PacWest while UFV holds down the top spot.

By the time provincials role around Feb. 21-23 at COTR, VIU wants to be in the No. 1 spot.

"We'll catch them and we'll beat them," said Gildersleeve. "We want to repeat so we're going to work so much harder to get there."