The VIU Women’s Mariners volleyball team started and finished their National tournament performance in the same place: first.
They captured the gold medal at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association women’s volleyball championship on Saturday, Mar. 10.

The Mariners started off the tournament against Halifax’s Mount Saint Vincent University on Mar. 8 and won all three matches, sweeping the first round of play. VIU seemed to have it easy in this round, winning 258, 2513, and 2512.

Mar. 9 brought the semi-final with VIU playing Toronto’s Humber College. VIU won the first set 2523, but lost the second by 3 points (22 25). They rallied back in the third and fourth set, beating Humber by two in the third (2523), and by 11 in the fourth (2514).

Winning this round cemented what the team had been hoping for all along: that they would go on to play in the gold medal game. But who would they play against? Mount Royal University (MRU), from Calgary, was ranked second in the nation and was the other team to watch. They upset the Mariners last year, stealing the gold medal in the final match. Would it come down to these two power teams again? MRU started by playing Bois De Boulogne College of Montral, and like VIU, MRU swept their first three sets. The scores for this match were 2512, 2518, and 2513. MRU went on to the other semi-final where they faced off against Medicine Hat College on the Mar. 9.

When the Mar. 9 game started out, it seemed as though MHC might have the upper-hand. MCH won the first set 2725, but that was as far as that went.

MHC lost the next three sets 1925, 1125, and 2125.

The final showdown was between VIU and MRU, who are bitter rivals.

As mentioned above, VIU lost to MRU in last year’s Nationals after a call against VIU sent the teams into a fifth set allowing MRU to claim the gold. The Mariners did not want to see a repeat of that loss this year.

And with home court advantage to back up an already amazing season, it seemed as though there was no way they could lose.

And then the first set happened. Whether it was nerves or they were just out-played that set, but the match started with VIU losing the first set 2523.

This loss was enough to light the fire though, and VIU fought back. The second set was won 25 18, followed by the third, 2519. Now just one set away from winning Nationals, VIU kept fighting. But MRU fought as well, and the last set was won by only two points. VIU walked away from with a 2624 win.

VIU’s Leanna Gildersleeve was named tournament MVP. In the final game alone, Gildersleeve managed 23 kills, 3 aces, and 13 diggs. Three VIU players were placed on the All-Star team. Shenise Power and Dani Smith were put on the 1st All-Star team and Tamara Rosenlund was put on the 2nd All-Star team.

University of the Fraser Valley defeated Humber College in the bronze medal game, with scores of 2523, 2523, 1925, and 2518. The Fair Play award was presented to the Medicine Hat Rattlers.

Mar. 10 will stay in the Mariners’ memory forever: it was the day that they won a National gold medal, defeated MRU, and had the chance to do this all on their own court, in front of their friends and families. This is the second National gold for the Mariners, and, with the way these ladies play, it will not be the last.

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