The Mariners Women’s Volleyball Team honoured their seniors as they closed out the regular season and changed focus for the postseason.
On Saturday, February 15, the Mariners Women’s Volleyball Team hosted the Camosun Chargers for Senior Night, the Mariners’ final home game for the season and their final game of the regular season. The Mariners won the match, 3-0, to sweep Camosun in the season series. Likewise, the victory would complete the Mariners sweep over the entire PACWEST conference, increasing their regular season record to 24-0: a perfect regular season. Following the night’s action, Head Coach Shane Hyde would give a gripping speech—full of laughter and near tears—to commend the team’s two seniors, Amanda Dobbyn and Andrea Cankovic.
“It’s a special moment, for sure. I would be lying if I didn’t say that; it’s a pretty major accomplishment. We’re the only team in the country, so far, I think, that’s done that; at least 24 matches,” Hyde said. “We got a great conference and some great teams, so we have to celebrate that, but the bottom line is that it doesn’t mean much. We’ve got the big game happening [on Friday, February 21], so that’s the game we need to be sharp on.”
Following the Friday night 3-0 win over Camosun in Victoria, the Mariners opened strong during Saturday’s contest to defend their own court.
“Camosun really pushed us hard. They played well against us,” Hyde said. “I think we came out slow in the third set, for sure; I think the second, we came out fired up pretty good; but the first set, we came out, I thought, playing really well, but Camosun blocked us—everywhere they had an answer for us.”
VIU won 25-15 in the first and second sets, then 25-17 in the third, to complete another 3-0 win over the Camosun Chargers.
“It was a bit of redemption, from last year,” Dobbyn said. “We played against Camosun, and lost in their gym on the Saturday night last year, for our last game.”
According to Dobbyn, though the Mariners went 23-1 in the 2018-2019 regular season and went on to win nationals, the one ‘little blemish’ kept the team from a perfect season. She also noted that the team is proud of their accomplishments this season, but it will mean so much more if they go on to win in provincials and in the national championship. Then, they will have had a true perfect season.
“Really, it doesn’t mean anything. If we lose our game on Friday, then it means absolutely nothing that we’ve gone undefeated,” Dobbyn said.
Cankovic echoed her fellow senior teammate and coach, saying, “I can’t really be too happy about it because now it’s the hardest part of the job with provincials and hopefully nationals. So, until that is done, I can’t really be like ‘oh my god, this was an undefeated season!’”
In the regular season, Dobbyn totalled 152.5 points in 24 matches, averaging 2.3 per set, while Cankovic put up 203.5 in 23 matches, averaging 3 points per set. While the recorded statistics will show that both seniors are talented athletes, and a glance at the team’s regular season results will illustrate how dominant the team is—winning 20 of 24 matches with a clean 3-0 sweep, and only having one match go to a fifth set—statistics do not tell the entire story.
“The result of the game may have been 3-0, but actually, we worked really hard throughout those three sets to beat the team,” Cankovic said. “On the paper, it doesn’t seem like it was hard, but definitely, every single team did their best against us.”
Dobbyn agreed with Cankovic, saying, “It is harder to see from the outside, I think, how much we’ve gone through and had to work through as a team unit this year.”
Although Cankovic and Dobbyn were the only two seniors on the team, their responsibilities in leading were reduced as the team carried the burden together.
“It started out pretty stressful, at the beginning of the year,” Dobbyn said.
In previous years, Dobbyn and Cankovic had been involved in the ‘leadership circle,’ and also gained experience as assistant captains, but it was new for them to be the clear-cut leaders as opposed to the supporters. Moreover, Dobbyn said that this season brought a change in the team’s dynamic with new additions to the roster.
“It was hard finding our identity a little bit at the beginning of the year; it was definitely a bit of a struggle,” Dobbyn said. “Ultimately, things kind of just worked their way out and it just took some time. We were just there to set an example, I think, versus trying to hold their hand so much.”
On the other hand, Cankovic said that she liked her role as captain, but also highlighted the team’s easygoing temperament.
“I don’t think we have that big of a difference on our team; I think we all goof around with each other, no matter if you’re a first year or fifth year,” Cankovic said.
Cankovic attributed the team’s cohesiveness to their annual preseason trip to Sprout Lake in the small town of Port Alberni.
“You’re away for two-ish days and there’s no wifi or anything. So, you’re just hanging with each other, and it kicks off there,” Cankovic said. “Then the entire season, you’re together every single day; you understand each other better because you share the same problems, not just problems but also the good things, and we’re just super supportive.”
Likewise, Dobbyn said that the Mariners Women’s Volleyball team has always been loving and welcoming.
“It is a family—everyone says it’s a family—but in this case, this is one of the tightest teams I’ve ever experienced,” Dobbyn said.
The team’s family dynamic was evident in Hyde’s post-game speech honouring the two fifth-year players.
Hyde opened by giving praise to Camosun as the second-ranked PACWEST team, and wished them luck in making it to the nationals to represent the Island. Hyde also congratulated a Camosun player for her five years in the Chargers uniform before thanking the Mariners alumni for creating a lasting legacy for the current players to uphold. Then he changed focus to his two fifth-year players.
Hyde noted that Senior Night typically only celebrates true fifth-year players—players that have played in the Mariners uniform for all five years of their collegiate career. Hyde joked in saying that Dobbyn is not that, but close.
“As mentioned earlier, Dobbyn hasn’t officially played five years for us,” Hyde said. “Every time I went to [scout her at] her practices, I went and watched; we had some amazing middles [at the time], and I wanted somebody that would wow me. I watched, ‘she’s just not wowing me. She’s good, but I want something great.’ She wasn’t quite great; well, that’s what I thought.”
Hyde continued by noting Dobbyn’s one semester playing Volleyball in the States after she graduated high school. Hyde joked that he had yet to learn where she played, saying he thinks it was New Mexico. Dobbyn corrected him: Illinois.
“She came back after her semester in the United States and contacted me … we needed a middle. I thought, ‘sure let’s bring her in,’ and the rest is history. We brought her in in November, she was a red-shirt, so technically, you’re a fifth-year; you played four-and-a-half years. So, we’re making an exception,” Hyde emphasized the technicality.
Hyde continued to reflect on Dobbyn and her career as a Mariner.
“Over the years, Dobbyn has become one of steadiest and most underrated middles in the country. Year after year, she leads the conference in blocks and has established herself as a dynamic offensive player,” Hyde said. “After years of being in the shadows of the great Mariners … I finally realized that Dobbyn would never have a wow factor. She wasn’t that type of player. She was the player who always went about her business, and never cared about awards or recognition.”
Hyde also mentioned that Dobbyn was always great, and made her team better. He suggested that the team, today, recognizes how valuable Dobbyn is as a leader on and off the court.
“I would say that one CCAA Bronze, and two national CCAA golds make you pretty good,” Hyde said. “With four straight years in leading the PACWEST in blocks—or close to it, first through third—equals quite the wow factor. Amanda, you truly are one of the greatest Mariners to ever play here; not bad for having no wow factor.”
The crowd responded with a mixture of laughter and applause as Dobbyn was gifted with various memorabilia that represented her not-quite-five-years of being a Mariner.
Hyde moved on to acknowledge Cankovic. He began by stating that his speech would mirror the style of relationship he and Cankovic had developed: it would be impromptu.
“She’s definitely not a home-grown athlete; she’s Croatian through and through. She talks about how great Croatia is all the time, well, why aren’t you there, then?” Hyde joked.
Hyde continued with a few anecdotes about Cankovic: how her then-boyfriend was recruited to VIU, and how she came with him, making them a package deal.
“A month before they got here, trouble in paradise,” Hyde joked.
The second thing Hyde talked about was Cankovic’s nickname, “Chunky.”
“I’ve said Andrea Cankovic—that’s probably five times in my history of coaching her for five years that I’ve said that, and that’s not a joke,” Hyde said.
Hyde said that everyone knows her as “Chunky,” and reflects on the confusion people have when they hear Hyde refer to her as such.
“Everybody that I talk to refuses to call Chunky Chunky, but here at VIU, that’s how she’s known: as Chunky,” Hyde said.
Finally, Hyde reflected on Cankovic’s career as one of the most decorated Mariners to suit up. She has won one bronze medal and three gold medals at nationals in the four years she has been a Mariner.
“Offensively: she does the job. Serving: she’s one of our top serve receivers. Defence: she does it all,” Hyde said. “She is our captain; she is our leader on this team, and she means a lot to this program, on and off the court.”
Whether it’s in the community, on campus, or in the athletic program, Cankovic’s influence is felt.
“She leads by two ways,” Hyde said. “One: you never want to make Chunky mad, because the Croatian will come out … she makes us all accountable. The second thing: she has got a humour that mirrors my seven year old. In fact, my 10 year old, my son and her, get along probably better than anybody because they share the same mental brain.”
Hyde notes that his statement wasn’t a joke and asks for confirmation from the team. A collective, “Yep,” is the response he receives.
“She definitely brings the fun, but also holds us accountable,” Hyde said.
After Cankovic was thanked for her five years as a Mariner, she was also given Mariners memorabilia.
Dobbyn said that she has thoroughly enjoyed being a Mariner, and it has helped her grow in her time at VIU.
“Looking back at my first year, I think I was a completely different person,” Dobbyn said.
Likewise, Cankovic said she liked VIU immediately, and she enjoyed the athletic community.
“The first year wasn’t really that easy, because, honestly, most of the time I had no idea where I was,” Cankovic said. “I made it through the first year and I was like ‘if I made it through this, then I want to stay here,’ and it only gets better from there.”
Aside from helping her to get settled in Canada and become more familiar with the English language, being a Mariner taught Cankovic a number of lessons on and off the court.
“Pretty much the entire first year here, Shane would yell, ‘Andrea!’ And I would be like ‘oh, what’d I do?’ And he’d say ‘start smiling’.”
So, she learned not to take things so seriously on the court and off the court. Cankovic said that playing volleyball helped her grow in every aspect of life.
“I established that confidence on the court, and it just translated into other things in my life.”
Likewise, Dobbyn said that being a Mariner has helped her become more aggressive on the court.
“Shane has really helped me to become a louder player on the court and to take charge of more things,” Dobbyn said. “I think being under Shane and being with VIU has really helped bring out an outgoing side of me on the court more, versus what I was like in high school … I think it’s helped me gain a lot of confidence, and be more confident and sure of myself [off the court].”
On Friday, February 21, at 5:30 pm, the Mariners play either UFV or COTR for the semi-final.
“We win that game, we know we’re going to nationals. So, that’s our big game; that’s what we’re focusing on,” Hyde said.
“In these days before provincials, sure we are focused on practices and everything, but we are also focusing on getting school work done,” Cankovic said. “So, once we’re at provincials, we’re not really thinking about anything other than volleyball.”
Dobbyn said, “We’re doing the same as we’ve always done. We always try to focus on ourselves versus on the competition. We’ve played all the teams going in, so there’s not any surprises.”