Men's Vball grab share of first

January 19th, 2014

VIU Mariners men grab share of first place

by Josh Aldrich and Aaron Hinks / Daily News
January 20, 2014 


In the first half of the Pacific Western Athletic Association season, the Vancouver Island University Mariners men's volleyball team looked like anything but a first place club.

But after sweeping the Capilano University Blues in Nanaimo this weekend, they jumped into a share of the lead with the Columbia Bible College Bearcats with 20 points.

They swept the Blues 3-0 (25-19, 25-18, 25-23) on Friday but had a much more difficult match on Saturday, still winning 3-2 (22-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-14, 15-10).

"I'd be lying to say if I said 'yes' (we have a shot at the to seed)," said head coach Abe Avender, after his Mariners got out to a 1-5 starts this season. "Each year I've been in this program as a head coach, we've got off to great starts, but this year after having to crawl out of the basement. .. this group has learned tons from the feeling of losing and now how good it feels to win and work hard."

Friday was arguably their most complete match of the season. Saturday, they were back to clawing out points and recovering from deficits, including the tie breaker as they got behind 5-2. "Rylan (Rower) went back there and hit a bunch of these flat nuclear missiles at them and it was great," said Avender.

Leading the way for VIU was setter and captain Dillon Collett.

The fifth-year senior took over the role after starting setter Adam Tishenko left the team due to low grades at Christmas time. It has taken a game or two for Collett to find his rhythm and feel for the offence, but he was finally clicking on the weekend.

"You can run a really good offence, but if the sets not where its supposed to be, you can't really do anything with it," said Avender.

"Now the consistency is coming."

This led to a big weekend from Zach Grigg, who had 12 kills and three aces on Friday and 16 kills on Saturday and Diego Bustos who had 13 kills and three aces on Friday 18 kills on Saturday.

Even rookie Theo Stewart, who joined the team for the start of this semester, looked strong in his time at libero.

"He doesn't get a ton of rotations out there. .. but with the butterflies of playing a varsity sport in the second semester as we push for playoffs, he did well out there," said Avender.

The Mariners plan to put the bye week to good use, as they prepare for their final three weeks of the season and playoffs.

"We've talked with the guys, 'we're deep in the season now we're 18 games in, we're not going to teach you guys any new skills, we're just going to refine what you've got,'" said Avender.

The VIU Mariner's women's volleyball team was mentally prepared to crush the Capilano University Blues and that's exactly what they did over the past weekend.

The Mariner's swept the Blues 3-0 on both Friday (25-18, 25-14, 25-21) and Saturday

(25-15, 25-15, 25-13).

Mariners head coach Shane Hyde said it was one of their "best full match performances this season."

The women's team currently sits in first place in British Columbia and is ranked second in the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association.

The only two matches the team lost this season was against the University of Fraser Valley. The Mariner's came back and beat UFV by two matches on home turf late last year.

Over the past 14 years the women's team has only lost a collective of 20 games. The reputation and status of a champion volleyball program motivates the woman to exceed their predecessors.

"History goes a long way, we talk about our history, we demand excellence," Hyde said. "We practice at a high level, we train at a high level. We have strength and conditioning coaches, we do mental training (and) we do a lot of individual work."

Above all else, you need to have the right mix of players, Hyde added.

"The biggest thing is we recruit the right players and success breeds success. Our girls aren't allowed to really take their foot off the gas too often."

Mental training can be just as important as physical training, Hyde said, adding that the team does a full weekend retreat in Sproat Lake.

"We rent out this island and we do all mental training out there," Hyde said.

While on their weekend retreat, Hyde said the team came up with a list of mission statements.

"One of them is we want other people in the stands and other teams to want to be playing with us. It's the smiles and fun we create, that's one thing that makes our program, in my mind, stronger than other programs. We really have team cohesion and we work on that."