In the national final, the VIU Mariners had to get past their toughest rival – they were able to do that and became champions.
Vancouver Island University’s women’s volleyball team won the national championship on Saturday night in Grande Prairie, Alta., defeating the Douglas Royals 25-19, 25-20, 23-25, 25-16 in an all-B.C. matchup to win gold.
The Mariners had lost three out of four matches to the Royals in the regular season and also fell to Douglas in the PacWest provincial championships at the end of February.
“We wanted this,” said Taylor Wickson, player of the match in the final, speaking to Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference TV after the match.
She said her team “passed amazing” and blocked well, which had been a focus going into the final.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the girls,” Wickson said. “We really showed up and I’m really proud of all of them.”
Andrea Cankovic had 14 kills in the final and Mikayla Wagner had 11. Kelsey Hutt had 26 digs, Wickson made 11 blocks and Danielle Groenendijk served four aces.
Shane Hyde said over the course of the tournament, all team members played confidently and played to their potential.
“Really, there wasn’t a team that challenged us too much,” he said. “As the tournament went on, we played pretty error-free.”
The Mariners were dominant the the first two days of the tournament, starting with a 25-16, 25-12, 25-7 whitewash of the Boomerang d’André-Laurendeau in Thursday’s opener and then continuing with another straight-sets victory over the Lakeland Rustlers in the semis, 25-15, 25-15, 25-17.
Following their runner-up finish at provincials, the Mariners had completely switched up their blocking scheme and it was effective. The M’s blocked so well, said Hyde, that it got opposing teams off their game trying to do different things.
“We were so aggressive. Our energy levels were so high and I think we really, truly intimidated the Douglas team,” Hyde said, adding that VIU was the more experienced team, played like it, and that became a factor.
Looking back over the season, coach said he knew his athletes were capable of getting the right results. A national championship shows he was right.
“It was a pretty proud moment for me as a coach,” Hyde said. “This was my fourth national championship, but this was one of the most special ones for me because I really do think that this team was the complete package from the start of the year. And all the ups and downs we’ve had maybe played into the success we had at the end.”
Wagner was chosen tournament MVP and Chantal Cumming and Groenendijk were selected as first-team all-stars.