The VIU Mariners women’s volleyball program won a national championship, then repeated, then three-peated, and have now made it four on the floor.
Vancouver Island University captured a fourth-straight Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championship this past weekend on Prince Edward Island, defeating the Douglas Royals three sets to one in the gold-medal match Sunday, March 27.
Even during a dynasty, the path to a national title is different each year. This year the Mariners were defeated in the PacWest provincial final by the Royals and relied on a wild-card berth to get to the CCAA championships.
“When we lost in the PacWest finals, we knew that we weren’t 100 per cent and it was weird, everybody kind of gave up on our team … nobody really talked about how we were three-time national champs and how we were ranked No. 1 all season,” said Shane Hyde, VIU coach.
He said the Mariners didn’t mind “hiding in the shadows,” though, and knew that they still had every opportunity in their season-long pursuit of a “legendary” achievement.
The Mariners defeated the Lynx d’Édouard-Montpetit in the quarterfinals three sets to one, then played “air-tight” volleyball in the semifinals to beat a tough Red Deer Queens team in straight sets.
The M’s didn’t play their best in the final, said the coach, but played with a championship mentality and won 25-22, 25-17, 21-25, 25-23.
“We definitely had this attitude that we weren’t going to let it slip away,” Hyde said.
He said the team was “pretty floored” to win a fourth-straight title – tied for the longest streak in CCAA history – and he noted that veterans such as Danielle Groenendijk and Kayla Passmore are now graduating after five years with four championships and one season lost to COVID-19.
“All they’ve known is winning. There’s nothing else on their resumé other than a national championship. It’s pretty outstanding,” the coach said.
Groenendijk, Linnea Brickwood and Jane Lytvynenko were chosen tournament all-stars, with Lytvynenko winning MVP honours. The outside hitter, who is from Ukraine, had missed most of provincials as the Russian invasion and concern for her family were foremost in her thoughts, but amid fundraising and doing what she could to help, she turned her focus to volleyball for nationals.
“There was no question from anybody at that tournament who was going to be MVP. She was heads and tails above every single player at nationals…” Hyde said. “She was getting 20 kills a match and having a great time and just kind of putting real life on pause for a minute.”
While Lytvynenko was the star, winning was a team effort and there were some Mariners who gained their first experience at nationals and saw what it takes to reach the tournament and win at that level.
“They can pass it on for the next era of Mariner women’s volleyball athletes,” Hyde said. “The fact that we’ve won nationals and they’ve seen the success of our process to get there, now they’ve bought in again and they’re so excited that we’ve already started it: a drive for five.”
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