Spring is on the horizon, temperatures are beginning to rise, and so too are the stakes at VIU, meaning only one thing: the PacWest Provincial Championships are around the corner.
The Mariners’ volleyball, basketball, and badminton teams compete at Provincials this month with PacWest conference bragging rights and a trip to CCAA National Championships on the line.
Each women’s and men’s team will head to their tournaments in excellent position to challenge for the championship, sitting near the top of their respective standings. Here’s a look at your Mariner’s as they embark towards Provincials glory.
VIU’s women’s volleyball team will look to defend their PacWest championship and book another ticket to Nationals this weekend in Cranbrook.
The team’s toughest challenge will likely be the University of Frasier Valley (UFV), who battled the Mariners for first place in the standings all season. VIU recorded two wins and two losses against UFV in regular season play, most recently Feb. 1–2 in a pair of road matches.
Head coach Shane Hyde says sharing a conference with a high-calibre team like UFV is a great opportunity to improve over the season.
“We’ve got a lot of opportunities to play these guys, and it helps them out as well,” Hyde says. “That’s why the PacWest conference is so strong in Canada, so it’s awesome we have the opportunity to play a team like that.
“Right now a lot of our prep is prepping for a team like UFV, and I believe if you prep for UFV you’re also prepping for Nationals, if and when you get there.”
The M’s enter the tournament coming off two spirited matches at home against Camosun, marking Dani Smith’s final appearance in front of VIU Nation.
The men’s squad will be aiming for top prize after taking home the silver medal in 2012. They split their home stand against Douglas College, ranked number one in Canada, earlier in the month and can build off that success heading into the tournament.
The Mariners won’t just have Douglas to contend with at Provincials. Few points separated the top four teams as regular season expired, with VIU, Douglas, Camosun, and Capilano University all clustered in the standings.
Both the men’s and women’s team travelled to the College of the Rockies for Provincials, but coach Abe Avender won’t be using travel fatigue as an excuse.
“Provincials this year are in Cranbrook, it’s a beast of a road trip and it’s a long bus ride,” Avender says. “But I said to our guys, we’re the last team in the world that’s gonna make excuses.”
Avender is also looking forward to seeing how the team has improved after practicing down the stretch to Provincials.
“We’re not done getting better, the young guys too, they haven’t plateaued and there’s a huge upside to a lot of them still. I’m finding it’s neat to see over the next little while how good they can get,” Avender says.
The men’s basketball team finished the season in second place behind Langara College, a team VIU failed to defeat this season but only lost the three games by a handful of points. Still, coach Matt Kuzminski wasn’t overly concerned about where the team ended up in the standings, saying, “I don’t think we necessarily look at where we finish at as far as placement.
“[Rather], our end of season goal is to make the National tournament and try and see how we can do from there. We put ourselves in a good position so far but anything can happen at Provincials.”
Camosun University is hosting the Provincials this year, meaning the Mariners only need to travel to Victoria for the tournament. While not a significant boost, Kuzminski is happy to stay on the Island.
“It’s a bit of an advantage,” Kuzminski says. “I think we’ll try to stay down there anyways, [the tournament] will be technically road games just to avoid the travel back and forth and kind of take a consistent approach to the games. It will be nice to be in Victoria, they have a nice facility.”
The ladies meanwhile are peaking at the perfect time, coming off two recent victories over first place Capilano. The new year brought good fortune to the Mariners, winning 9 of their first 11 games in 2013.
The team will lean on third-year guard Jocelyn Jones, who leads the team in assists and rebounds, as well as team point leader Shayna Worthington.
PacWest Provincial Championships for badminton concluded just following the Nav. deadline. Prior to the tournament, coach Janice Walker said the team prepared for the matches with minor changes rather than significant strategy overhalls.
“It’s a lot of tweaking at this point—you can’t make a lot of wholesale changes,” Walker says. “The conditioning part of our season is behind us, and now we’re working on quickness and finesse and consistency. That’s always huge in badminton.”
Gold medalists from the tournament’s five events will form Team B.C. that will represent the conference at Nationals in Toronto, beginning Feb. 28. Silver medalists become wildcard contenders.
Visit <www.pacwestbc.ca/index.php> to follow the Mariners as they compete in their Provincial Championships.