By Sports and Lifestyle Editor Cole Schisler
The Mariners experienced incredible success across all sports this year. As we come to the end of the Mariners athletic year, we are taking a look back at some of the Mariners who shined on and off the court.
Catie Hegglin has been with the Mariners for just two years, and has already won a CCAA National Championship. This year she won the PACWEST Provincial Championships with her team, she says the experience with the Mariners has been amazing.
“I loved it. The whole season we were looking forward to playing provincials at home, and also having nationals so close to home,” she says. “Winning provincials was really awesome.”
Having so many friends and acquaintances in the crowd made Hegglin nervous at first, but, as the tournament got under way, she fed off their energy and support. Hegglin went on to be named a PACWEST tournament All-Star.
Hegglin is studying political science at VIU. She says that volleyball can sometimes conflict with her school schedule, but the teachers and coaches are understanding, and help to accommodate the athletes as best they can. At the end of the day, both the teachers and the coaches agree that school comes first.
“It’s all about time management,” she says. “If you manage your time right, it’s not too stressful. I find that most of the team is able to get it done.”
With the extra workload comes added responsibility. While Hegglin balances her workload, she is also a leader on campus. She says that playing with the Mariners has provided her with opportunities to create relationships, and also for travel with the team.
The team is like a family for Hegglin. She plans to play out her full five years of eligibility with the Mariners. She was scouted by head coach Shane Hyde two years ago, and was offered a volleyball scholarship. She fell in love with the Island, and was impressed by VIU’s programs, so she moved out to Nanaimo from Langley, BC. When she finishes her degree, she plans to travel, and may come back as a coach in the future.
She is still years away from finishing her degree. For next year, her goal is to win nationals with the Mariners.
“I’m a firm believer that National Championships are won in first semester,” she says. “It’s not the work you put in during the two weeks before Nationals, it’s the work you put in during the offseason and the start of the year.”
The Mariners will be focused on conditioning during the off-season, and will put in many long hours at practice. However, playing with the Mariners is not always about working hard. The teammates all get along with each other, and often spend time together outside of practice. They like to have a fun, competitive environment at practice — sometimes, they even get a little musical.
“For our pregame bus rides, we always blast music and sing early 2000s throwbacks,” she says. “That’s one of my favourite memories with the team.”
Hegglin encourages anyone with an interest in playing sports at the post-secondary level to pursue their dreams.
“Do it, 100 percent,” she says. “It’s such an opportunity. There’s so many things I wouldn’t have done, and so many people that I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t come to play here. Playing here immerses you in this culture that gives you an experience in post-secondary that is incomparable to anything else.”
This season was Eric D’Andrea’s graduating season with the Mariners basketball team. He has been with the Mariners for four years, and says that he got everything he wanted out of his last season.
“I accomplished the things that I had set out to do,” he says. “I was able to play on a really good team, one of the best in the country. We were pretty successful, even though we fell short of our ultimate goal. Being a part of that as an older player was a great learning experience for me. I was able to help lead, and show the younger guys what it means to play here in this culture. I loved every minute of it.”
Unfortunately, D’Andrea has maxed out his years of eligibility with the Mariners. He initially played a year with the Thompson River University Wolfpack before transferring to VIU. D’Andrea had a friend who played for the Mariners that suggested he come to play at VIU. Coincidentally, his coach at Thompson River had also coached VIU’s head coach Matt Kuzminski, who helped facilitate the transfer.
D’Andrea started playing basketball at the age of five. His father was a basketball coach, and would often take Eric to practices with him. Growing up in Nelson, BC, indoor sports like basketball were not a high priority compared to outdoor activities. However, D’Andrea says he was lucky to have a supportive group of teachers and parent volunteers that would keep the gym open for kids who wanted to play. D’Andrea strongly developed his skills towards the end of high school. When he graduated, he was offered a volleyball scholarship to a small college in the Kootenays where he lived, but he wanted to try living in a different area. He also wanted to continue pursing basketball, which led him to try out at Thompson River.
“I went to the ID camp at Thompson River, and the coaches came out to watch a few of my games when we were at provincials. I wasn’t offered a full-time position, but I got told to come try out. I made the team, and that’s where my post-secondary career got started,” D’Andrea says.
D’Andrea has had a successful post-secondary basketball career. In 2013, he played a roll on the Mariners team that took silver at the PACWEST Provincial Championships, then went on to become the CCAA National Champions. He was also a PACWEST Provincial Champion in 2015, as well as this year. He says that the proudest moment in his career was winning the CCAA National Championship. Overall, he feels great pride in having played with the Mariners for as long as he has, and says that the years with the Mariners have been the best of his life so far.
“I’m proud to have played out here just because of all the people that I’ve met over the years, and all the different relationships and bonds I’ve been able to make with past and current teammates, and coaches. Those are the kind of people and friends that I’ll have forever.”
After school, D’Andrea plans to become a teacher. He is currently finishing his Bachelor of Arts here at VIU, and is enrolling for a post-bachelor in education. Going in to the future, he is excited to see what comes next, and will always look back on his time with the Mariners fondly.
Graydon Robb has had a phenomenal badminton career in his four years at VIU. He will be playing Singles again next year for his final season.
In his rookie year, Robb got a gold medal in men’s doubles with Pat Thompson, and was named Athlete of the Year. In his second year, he won a silver medal in mixed doubles with Melissa Liew. In his third year, he won bronze in singles. Recently, he won silver at the CCAA Nationals, beating the same player he lost to the year before. Next year will be Robb’s last year at VIU. His goal is to get a CCAA gold medal. Robb is among the top 30 players in Canada.
Robb started playing Badminton when he was four years old. His mother was a Pan American champion, and his grandfather also played badminton. He was born in Calgary, and joined the Glencoe Badminton Club, which had world renowned coaches, including Olympians like Ardy Wiranata, and Bryan Moodie.
“I had available coaching at a young age which inspired me to take badminton more competitively than other sports,” Robb says. “I played at a high level of baseball, volleyball, basketball, hockey, and golf, but badminton was the one that felt the best.”
Currently, Robb is taking a break from training. He will return home to Calgary this summer, where his club is hosting a Badminton World Federation (BWF) tournament. Top ranked players from across the world will come to compete, and Robb will be among them. The BWF tournament is the highest level Robb has played at.
Along with his endeavours in badminton, Robb is going into the last year of a degree in international business next year. He is also a hip hop, and visual artist. He has performed his music at various venues, and has performed at the Sled Island music festival in 2012 and 2013. While his music can be best described as hip hop, it is hard to categorize him into any specific genre, and he draws inspiration from a variety of musical genres.
After school, Robb is deciding whether or not he wants to try out for team Canada and push to compete in the Olympics. Outside of the college circuit, Robb competes at the national level. He aims to be in the top three badminton players in Canada, and hopes to get to that level next year. He encourages anyone with an interest in the sport to give it a try.
“It’s just a beautiful sport,” he says. “Once you break into the badminton community, it’s such a great place to be. It’s very competitive, but we’re all still friends. It’s a very loving community.”
At the end of her five-year career with the Mariners, Megan Rosenlund finished her season being named the CCAA Women’s Volleyball Player of the Year, and the PACWEST Player of the Year.
“I wasn’t expecting them at all,” she says. “I was very grateful to receive them. I had no idea I’d even be in the running for them. I’m pretty proud of myself in that way because I worked so hard all year and it paid off.”
Success on the volleyball court is nothing new for Rosenlund. In her rookie year with the Mariners she made the PACWEST All-Rookie team. In 2015 she was a PACWEST League All-Star. She was also an integral part of the Mariners success at the 2016 CCAA Nationals where the Mariners won gold. This year, Rosenlund led her team to a bronze medal finish at the CCAA National Championships.
Rosenlund grew up in Port Coquitlam, BC. She first started playing volleyball in the fifth grade. She made the B-team of the local club volleyball organization and it was, “the best day” of her life.
“I tried out for the U13 team and I didn’t think I was going to make it, I was the youngest one,” she says. “When I got the news, I was standing at the top of my stairs, and I yelled it down to my family.”
Megan’s sister Tamara was also a volleyball player. Tamara came to study at VIU in 2007, and she played volleyball with the Mariners under head coach Shane Hyde. When it was Megan’s turn to apply for university, she was reluctant to come to VIU because she did not want to play in her sister’s shadow.
“I am so grateful that I came here,” she says. “I think I created my own path. My sister and I are similar in some ways, but we’re definitely two different people.”
Megan developed a strong relationship with Coach Hyde. In his farewell address to Megan, Coach Hyde noted that he had coached with a Rosenlund on his team for 10 years, and did not know what he was going to do without one next year. Megan tried to quit in her third year with the Mariners, but Coach Hyde convinced her otherwise. She says it’s the best decision she has made in her life so far. The Rosenlunds and the Hydes are close. Megan goes on trips with the Hyde family, and she sometimes babysits his kids.
“It definitely wasn’t easy at points,” she says. “We would butt heads, and we’d have different view points on certain things, but looking back, he and his family are some of the closest people I know. I have the utmost respect for him, and so much gratitude for everything he has given me.”
The Mariners team was very close this year. Rosenlund says that everyone on the team got along well, there was no drama, and the team continues to spend time together even though the season has ended. She believes that the team’s strength comes from their diversity. Each Mariner brings something different to the team.
“The reason why we’re so close is because we learn from each other every single day,” she says. “We get to know ourselves a little bit better by looking at everyone’s different styles of play, and different ways of coping with emotions. Everyone knows how to help each other out through their own experience.”
In her first year with the Mariners, fifth year player Stephanie O’Sullivan suffered a torn ACL in the Mariners’ home opener against the Camosun Chargers. Despite her injury, Stephanie continued to play, and finished her season as a provincial bronze medalist.
“I was a fifth year and I’d been through a lot before that so I just grinded through it,” she says. “It wasn’t easy. It was a lot of pain, but I wanted to do it, and help my teammates as much as I could.”
Originally from Cork, Ireland, O’Sullivan had a long history with basketball before coming to play at VIU. She started playing at the age of eight with a club team in Glanmire. High school basketball is not as big in Ireland as it is in North America, so for serious players in Ireland, club basketball provides the most opportunity to play the sport.
Along with some of her teammates, O’Sullivan made the provincial team. From there, they made the national team, and started playing in tournaments at the underage level. This gave her the chance to travel to America, and once there, she was noticed by American coaches. She was recruited to a team in Montana, where she played for two years.
From there, she went to play for two years in Alberta. For her fifth year, O’Sullivan was applying to go to another school. She strongly considered the North Alberta Institute of Technology, (NAIT), and other schools in the CCAA, but ultimately chose VIU. She says that she wanted to try going to school outside of Alberta, and remembered the Mariners from watching them play at the CCAA National Championships. Out of all the teams O’Sullivan has played for, she says that she loves her fellow Mariners the most.
“They were so welcoming,” she says. “I came on a visit back in April and they welcomed me with open arms. Normally when you have a bunch of girls together, there’s always a few that you don’t get along with. This was actually my first team where there was no drama. The girls are just so funny. With them, you never know what’s going to happen next.”
O’Sullivan also has gratitude for her coaches. She says that they are great people, and the support that they gave her throughout the year made it an amazing experience for her, even with her torn ACL.
To deal with her ACL, O’Sullivan has a surgery coming up on May 1. When she returned to the court after her injury, she worried that playing with her knee would make the injury worse. After awhile, she accepted it, and was eager to play. Her drive to play despite her torn ACL was an inspiration for the other Mariners, who often told her she was a role model for them.
The Mariners ended their season winning bronze at the PACWEST Provincial Championships. It was a tough year for the Mariners; the roster was wrought with injuries, three players had torn ACLs, and other players had to deal with issues outside of the court. O’Sullivan says that in light of all that went wrong for the Mariners this year, it was amazing for them to win bronze.
“100 percent the Mariners can win gold next year. They have the work ethic, and hopefully next year things might go a bit our way. We won it last year, when I wasn’t on the team, they can definitely win next year.”
Usama Zaid joined the Mariners this September. Since then, he has been a force on the courts.
Zaid took PACWEST and the CCAA by storm. He was frequently named PACWEST Player of the Week, and finished the season as PACWEST Athlete of the Year across all sports. Among his many accomplishments, he was also named CCAA Player of the Year, a CCAA All-Canadian, and CCAA First Team All-Star.
Despite his distinction as a CCAA All-Canadian, Zaid was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, California. He grew up in a large family, with 10 siblings. Zaid has been playing basketball since he learned to walk. His family is full of athletes; his brothers, sisters, mother, and father are all basketball enthusiasts. Zaid says that his family is what drives him to do his best in all things.
“I want to help out as much as possible,” he says. “We still live in South Central. Eventually we want to move out and be able to live better. I don’t want anyone in my family to go hungry, or need something and not have it. That’s what drives me to work my hardest every day.”
Zaid started playing organized basketball at the age of seven. He continued playing basketball throughout high school, which took him to college on a scholarship. It was not until his fourth year of post-secondary that Usama found out about VIU. He had never heard of the school until he was recruited by head coach Matt Kuzminski.
“Four years into it, I finally found a place that I could stay,” Zaid says. “A place where I can get my degree, and also play basketball to finish off my career.”
Currently, Zaid is in the physical education program at VIU. After school, he wants to play basketball professionally. With his degree, Zaid hopes to be a personal trainer, or a physiotherapist. While he is in his fourth year, Zaid still has three years of eligibility to play for the Mariners, and is returning to the court next year.
Zaid says that his experience with the Mariners has been amazing. He has cultivated close connections with his teammates, he calls them his brothers. He says that the relationships he’s made this year will be with him for life.
“It’s not often in college that you meet people and actually keep in touch with them, because you meet so many people year in year out,” he says. “With this team and these coaches, I’ll never lose touch with them. After all we went through together this year we created a real bond. It’s been a like a family thing ever since I’ve been here.”
This year, Zaid has made big waves with the Mariners. He is dedicated to training hard throughout the offseason to return to the court even stronger next year. He has had monumental success here at VIU, but he does not let it get to his head. He says he acknowledges it, then tries to forget it. One thing is certain: even if he forgets, his acheivements will be remembered by for many years to come.
Zach Grigg was a powerhouse player for the Mariners in his final year. He ended the season a PACWEST All-Star, and was among the top scoring leaders in the PACWEST.
“I had a great year,” he says. “I couldn’t ask for anything more with how good the team was and how tight it was. For me, it’s more about the relationships I’ve made while I’ve been here — that’s the stuff I’ll take away from my experience.”
Grigg says he is proud to have been a part of the Mariners family atmosphere over the years. There’s no separation between any of the different groups with the Mariners teams, he says that everyone gets along well with each other, and support a strong culture of friendship and success at VIU.
Originally from Nelson, BC, Grigg had to travel to Kelowna, BC, to play volleyball on a regular basis due to the fact that Nelson did not have a volleyball club team. He started taking volleyball seriously in high school. He played in Nelson throughout the highschool season, but would have to travel to Kelowna every Sunday during club volleyball season.
“It was about a four hour drive there and back,” he says. “I couldn’t have done it without my parents. They drove me everywhere and supported me in doing what I love to do.”
His older sister attended VIU while Grigg was finishing high school and pursuing volleyball. He was also considering VIU for the strength of its volleyball program. When he first came to play, he was offered only a small scholarship, because head coach Abe Avender had never seen him play before. At the end of his first season, Grigg was named Rookie of the Year, and his scholarship was extended after that. Grigg is grateful to Coach Avender for taking a chance on him.
“Abe is a great guy, the passion that he brings to everything is inspiring,” Grigg says. “He runs his own business, he’s a chiropractor, and he runs this team. He really preaches passion and love for the game. Being around a person like him is very inspiring.”
Grigg says that his year was his favourite year with the Mariners. Everything was a bit sweeter for him, and he says that the team was one of the best he has played on.
When he finishes school, Grigg is going to take some time off and go travelling. He bought a Volkswagen Westfalia van and plans to drive south along the coast. He has no ultimate travel plans, he just wants to go for it, and see how far he can get.
While Grigg looks forward to his future, he is focused on enjoying his remaining time at VIU. He says that anyone wanting to play for the Mariners should take the opportunity.
“Never settle,” he says. “Enjoy every minute of it, because it goes fast.”
Cole is a second-year Bachelor of Arts student majoring in creative writing, minoring in political science. He has an interest in all things exciting, mundane, or otherwise. He hopes to one day become an author, actor, comedian, editor, and rapper, while moonlighting as an astronaut.