Looking for bye at provincials

February 10th, 2013

Mariners looking for bye at provincial championships Led by Jocelyn Jones, VIU plays Capilano Blues and Quest Kermodes

Josh Aldrich

Daily News

Friday, February 08, 2013

The Vancouver Island University Mariners women's team looks like a completely different group on the floor in the second half of the season than they did through the first eight games of the Pacific Western Athletic Association calendar.

Due to injuries and violations the M's managed to scrape together a .500 record in the first half of the season, with a sweep in the last weekend before their semester break. Now, they have a legitimate shot at wrapping up the No. 2 seed in the conference and a first-round bye at provincials.

They are currently tied with the Douglas College Royals for that position at 11-6 - though the Royals swept the season series to hold the tiebreaker - and are one of two teams to beat the No. 1 Capilano University Blues (15-2) this season.

This weekend, they hit the road to play the Quest University Kermodes (10-7) on Friday and Capilano on Saturday.

With four games left, there are four teams in contention for the No. 2 seed, also including the Kermodes and the Kwantlen Eagles.

But head coach Bill McWhin-nie isn't necessarily sold on the advantages of the first round bye.

"We've had it in the past and we haven't done well with it in the past," said McWhinnie. "Our league is so tight, that whoever plays the best for those three days is going to win it. I don't think it matters what seed you are."

VIU lost their top player, Jocelyn Jones, for a sizeable chunk of the first semester due to a hamstring injury, which at first she tried to play through. They were also missing big off-season recruit and transfer Erin Vekic due to a credits issue and lost import forward Chardonnae Mortimer to a personal issue.

Jones and Vekic, however, returned in the second half of the season and have been dynamic, elevating the VIU offence to the third best in the conference - twice in the first half of the season they failed to score 39 points. Over the last nine games they have averaged " points a game.

They have been solid defensively all season and have the second best points for and points against differential in the PacWest at plus-179.

"We focused on what we needed to and right now we're just trying to get better. We still have room to grow," said Jones. "We're just working as a team and everyone is healthy and everyone is good."

Jones is second on the team and fourth in the league in scoring with 12.86 points per game, first on the team and 10th in the PacWest in rebounding at 6.0 a game and leading both in assists with 5.36 a game - No. 2 on that list are Delainee Behrns of Quest and Jessica Villadiego of Kwantlen with 3.71 a game.

"Jocelyn makes everyone better. She's a scorer, she can distribute to other people and she gives people the ball in positions where they can score," said McWhinnie. "Erin has given us a very good shooter and a veteran presence on the floor. She's and intelligent player and has given us more depth."

The Mariners also now find themselves benefiting from their early season roster issues. They were forced to play a lot of reserve players and players who were not normally in certain positions in different spots on the floor. Those players - like Jamie McFarland, Viv Veerman, Jenna Carver and Jamie Oliver - now add critical experienced depth as they enter the final two weeks of the season.

"With all of the injuries in the first half of the year (McWhin-nie) has had to play me more and it's given me a confidence boost that I've needed," said second year guard McFarland.

Jones will also be drawing on her on experience from last year when they lost in the PacWest final to the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves.

She also knows that the Blues will be out to avenge a 74-43 loss from three weeks ago.

"I think more than focusing on other teams, we've got to make sure we do what we do best and play our game and don't let other teams dictate to us," said Jones.