Trio set for final game at VIU

February 9th, 2014

Five years ago, Paige Wiebe came to Vancouver Island University in search of a life away from home, an education and the chance to win championships.

She will leave with all of that. On Thursday, against the Camosun Chargers, Wiebe will play her final Pacific Western Athletic Association women's volleyball home game.

It will also be the swan song for power Leanna Gildersleeve and setter Ashley Cousens. Wiebe, however, was the only one who played all five years of her eligibility at VIU.

The fact it is almost over has not quite sunk in yet.

"It's really exciting that I can start a new chapter in my life when I'm done, I'm also going to miss everything like the routine," said Wiebe. "I think it will be more surreal in August when I'm not coming back to Nanaimo."

The Mariners will honour the outgoing seniors before their 6 p.m. start on Thursday.

It has been rollercoaster ride for Wiebe at VIU, marked almost as much by her injuries as her successes. Her latest was a serious knee injury just before the season started that threatened to end her career altogether. She put off surgery and surprised many in her recovery as she returned to the floor after the Christmas break.

"It was real important to me, I wanted to finish it out," said Wiebe. "I came back for a reason and I feel like I'm still pushing for it."

When she originally came to VIU, she had no idea she would be playing out her whole five years on the team. It was more of a see how it goes situation. Of the utmost importance was an education and she will be graduating with a bachelor of arts with a major in phys ed.

For head coach Shane Hyde, it will be tough to watch the White Rock product play but her final few games with the Mariners.

"It's shocking how long she's been here. .. she's been here for the birth of both of my kids, that's how long she's been with us," he said.

"Anytime you've got a fifthyear player with your program, especially some one like Paige who has been with your program for all five, it's something special because it doesn't happen all the time."

Gildersleeve transferred to VIU three years ago after starring for two years at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, followed by a two-year layoff. She quickly became a cornerstone of the team and one of the top players in the country and was named an all-Canadian last season.

She is well aware this will likely be her last year in high-level volleyball, and the last home game is something she is having difficulty wrapping her mind around.

"It's scary, it's going to be different not playing in this gym ever again. I have a lot of memories in this place," she said. "I'm trying not to think about it, because as soon as I start thinking about it I will probably start crying."

Gildersleeve played a major role in the M's national championship in 2012 that they won on home court. But what she will always take from playing here is the way the community rallied around not only the teams, especially the athletes. It is not something felt by college athletes in major centres like Edmonton or Vancouver.

"It builds a culture here in Nanaimo," said the North Vancouver product, who adds she will probably spend next year travelling before returning to finishing out her physical education degree. "The main thing I will miss is what Nanaimo does for sports, creating a culture where athletes are valued and there is that support structure from previous athletes, with other athletes and then the future athletes. Having the young kids come watch our games and talk to us helps create that environment that you don't get in a big city."

She will leave a major hole in the Mariners offence when she moves on at the end of the year.

"She changed the culture of our team to being a hardworking team and having to be accountable," said Hyde, who originally passed on Gildersleeve when she came out of high school and then had to talk her out of her hiatus.

Cousens is only in her second year with VIU, but has made a huge impact in a short time. She transferred in from the Capilano University Blues for last season, tabbed as the heir apparent for two-time all-Canadian setter Dani Smith.

She spent almost all of the 2012-13 campaign watching and waiting. This year she has slipped in and the Mariners did not skip a beat. They are once again one of the most lethal offences in the country.

It is a move where she does not have any regrets about.

"The difference between here and Capilano are different expectations, especially on the athletes," she said. Just the hard work and dedication you put into it, it's to a new level."

She gets to have two final send offs. Provincials this year are at Capilano, and with the No. 1 seed already secured by VIU, she is looking forward to saying goodbye to a place that gave her an opportunity to develop early on in her college career.

"It's kind of surreal, it doesn't feel like it's over, it doesn't feel like this is the last time I'm going to play in this gym," said Cousens, who will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and will likely be returning to take her masters in urban planning.

Though the Courtenay native only played two seasons at VIU, Hyde coached her for several years in club volleyball. He was thrilled to get that chance to work with her again.

"Everyone has a different story here at VIU or their time with the volleyball program, but it definitely makes me feel proud to watch a player finish her five years with us or finish her volleyball career with us because I feel like I've left a mark with them as well," he said.

COURT NOTES - The VIU men have one fifth-year senior playing his final home game on Thursday. Dillon Collett transferred in from Capilano two years ago. They follow the women at 8 p.m. against the Chargers.

JAldrich@nanaimodailynews.com 250-729-4243

Ashley Cousens career highlights

. Transferred to VIU in 2012 after spending the first three years of her career with the Capilano University Blues.

. Named a PacWest all-star in 2011 and 2012.

. Academic all-Canadian in 2011.. Named a provincial tournament all-star in 2012.

. Won PacWest bronze medals in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

. Named Capilano women's volleyball team MVP in 2011 and 2012. Graduated from GP Vanier in Courtenay.

Paige Wiebe career highlights

. Played all five years of her career with the VIU Mariners, playing in 67 career matches to this point.. Named a PacWest all-star in 2013.. Played a big role in VIU's 2012 national and provincial championships, and won a national silver in 2011.

. Was on provincial silver medal teams in 2011, 2011 and bronze in 2013.

. Was named to the VIU Mariners Academic Achievement list in 2011.. She will graduate with a Bachelor of Physical Education.

. Graduated from Earl Marriott Secondary School in White Rock.

Leanna Gildersleeve career highlights

. Transferred to VIU in 2011 after three years at Grant MacEwan University.. Named a CCAA all-Canadian in 2013.. Named a CCAA national championship MVP in 2012.. Named a PacWest all-star in 2012 and 2013.

. Named PacWest championship MVP in 2012.

. Named the 2009 CCAA national championship MVP with GMU.. Named an ACAC all-conference team in 2009.

. Graduated from Sutherland Secondary School in North Vancouver

- See more at: http://www.nanaimodailynews.com/sports/trio-set-for-final-game-at-viu-1.846939#sthash.P36y6HUq.dpuf

Trio set for final game at VIU

Wiebe played all five years with Mariners, Gildersleeve three and Cousens two

Josh Aldrich / Daily News
February 12, 2014  

Five years ago, Paige Wiebe came to Vancouver Island University in search of a life away from home, an education and the chance to win championships.

She will leave with all of that. On Thursday, against the Camosun Chargers, Wiebe will play her final Pacific Western Athletic Association women's volleyball home game.

It will also be the swan song for power Leanna Gildersleeve and setter Ashley Cousens. Wiebe, however, was the only one who played all five years of her eligibility at VIU.

The fact it is almost over has not quite sunk in yet.

"It's really exciting that I can start a new chapter in my life when I'm done, I'm also going to miss everything like the routine," said Wiebe. "I think it will be more surreal in August when I'm not coming back to Nanaimo."

The Mariners will honour the outgoing seniors before their 6 p.m. start on Thursday.

It has been rollercoaster ride for Wiebe at VIU, marked almost as much by her injuries as her successes. Her latest was a serious knee injury just before the season started that threatened to end her career altogether. She put off surgery and surprised many in her recovery as she returned to the floor after the Christmas break.

"It was real important to me, I wanted to finish it out," said Wiebe. "I came back for a reason and I feel like I'm still pushing for it."

When she originally came to VIU, she had no idea she would be playing out her whole five years on the team. It was more of a see how it goes situation. Of the utmost importance was an education and she will be graduating with a bachelor of arts with a major in phys ed.

For head coach Shane Hyde, it will be tough to watch the White Rock product play but her final few games with the Mariners.

"It's shocking how long she's been here. .. she's been here for the birth of both of my kids, that's how long she's been with us," he said.

"Anytime you've got a fifthyear player with your program, especially some one like Paige who has been with your program for all five, it's something special because it doesn't happen all the time."

Gildersleeve transferred to VIU three years ago after starring for two years at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, followed by a two-year layoff. She quickly became a cornerstone of the team and one of the top players in the country and was named an all-Canadian last season.

She is well aware this will likely be her last year in high-level volleyball, and the last home game is something she is having difficulty wrapping her mind around.

"It's scary, it's going to be different not playing in this gym ever again. I have a lot of memories in this place," she said. "I'm trying not to think about it, because as soon as I start thinking about it I will probably start crying."

Gildersleeve played a major role in the M's national championship in 2012 that they won on home court. But what she will always take from playing here is the way the community rallied around not only the teams, especially the athletes. It is not something felt by college athletes in major centres like Edmonton or Vancouver.

"It builds a culture here in Nanaimo," said the North Vancouver product, who adds she will probably spend next year travelling before returning to finishing out her physical education degree. "The main thing I will miss is what Nanaimo does for sports, creating a culture where athletes are valued and there is that support structure from previous athletes, with other athletes and then the future athletes. Having the young kids come watch our games and talk to us helps create that environment that you don't get in a big city."

She will leave a major hole in the Mariners offence when she moves on at the end of the year.

"She changed the culture of our team to being a hardworking team and having to be accountable," said Hyde, who originally passed on Gildersleeve when she came out of high school and then had to talk her out of her hiatus.

Cousens is only in her second year with VIU, but has made a huge impact in a short time. She transferred in from the Capilano University Blues for last season, tabbed as the heir apparent for two-time all-Canadian setter Dani Smith.

She spent almost all of the 2012-13 campaign watching and waiting. This year she has slipped in and the Mariners did not skip a beat. They are once again one of the most lethal offences in the country.

It is a move where she does not have any regrets about.

"The difference between here and Capilano are different expectations, especially on the athletes," she said. Just the hard work and dedication you put into it, it's to a new level."

She gets to have two final send offs. Provincials this year are at Capilano, and with the No. 1 seed already secured by VIU, she is looking forward to saying goodbye to a place that gave her an opportunity to develop early on in her college career.

"It's kind of surreal, it doesn't feel like it's over, it doesn't feel like this is the last time I'm going to play in this gym," said Cousens, who will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and will likely be returning to take her masters in urban planning.

Though the Courtenay native only played two seasons at VIU, Hyde coached her for several years in club volleyball. He was thrilled to get that chance to work with her again.

"Everyone has a different story here at VIU or their time with the volleyball program, but it definitely makes me feel proud to watch a player finish her five years with us or finish her volleyball career with us because I feel like I've left a mark with them as well," he said.

COURT NOTES - The VIU men have one fifth-year senior playing his final home game on Thursday. Dillon Collett transferred in from Capilano two years ago. They follow the women at 8 p.m. against the Chargers.

JAldrich@nanaimodailynews.com 250-729-4243

Ashley Cousens career highlights

. Transferred to VIU in 2012 after spending the first three years of her career with the Capilano University Blues.

. Named a PacWest all-star in 2011 and 2012.

. Academic all-Canadian in 2011.. Named a provincial tournament all-star in 2012.

. Won PacWest bronze medals in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

. Named Capilano women's volleyball team MVP in 2011 and 2012. Graduated from GP Vanier in Courtenay.

Paige Wiebe career highlights

. Played all five years of her career with the VIU Mariners, playing in 67 career matches to this point.. Named a PacWest all-star in 2013.. Played a big role in VIU's 2012 national and provincial championships, and won a national silver in 2011.

. Was on provincial silver medal teams in 2011, 2011 and bronze in 2013.

. Was named to the VIU Mariners Academic Achievement list in 2011.. She will graduate with a Bachelor of Physical Education.

. Graduated from Earl Marriott Secondary School in White Rock.

Leanna Gildersleeve career highlights

. Transferred to VIU in 2011 after three years at Grant MacEwan University.. Named a CCAA all-Canadian in 2013.. Named a CCAA national championship MVP in 2012.. Named a PacWest all-star in 2012 and 2013.

. Named PacWest championship MVP in 2012.

. Named the 2009 CCAA national championship MVP with GMU.. Named an ACAC all-conference team in 2009.

. Graduated from Sutherland Secondary School in North Vancouver