Ben Chessor
The Navigator

It might not have been the colour they wanted, but the VIU Mariners’ women’s volleyball team didn’t come home from the National Championship in Toronto empty-handed. The Mariners battled hard and orchestrated a huge comeback to secure a bronze medal, coming back from a 2-0 deficit against the number one seeded Garneau Elans to pick up the 3-2 victory. 

The second seeded Mariners kicked off the tournament against the Mount Saint Vincent University Mystics from Halifax. The first set was tightly contested with both teams vying for the early lead, but it was the Mariners who took a 1-0 lead with the 25-22 victory. Then the Mariners expanded their lead to 2-0 by taking the second set 25-15. The Mariners tried to complete the sweep in the third set, but the Mystics wouldn’t quit. Instead, Mount Saint Vincent picked up the 25-19 victory in the third set to keep the match alive. But despite the Mystic’s best effort to extend the game, the Mariners put the game to bed in the fourth set, picking up the 25-18 win, and the 3-1 victory in the match.

The Mariners’ opponents in the semi-final were the Red Deer Queens. Red Deer got on the board early, taking the first set from the Mariners. VIU tried to draw even, but Red Deer also won the second set, this time by a score of 25-16. The Mariners refused to quit in the third set and managed to keep the match alive with a 25-17 victory, but the Queens refused to quit, taking the lead in the fourth set and holding on to take the match from the Mariners, three sets to one.

VIU’s hope for a gold medal may have been over, but the team still had a chance to take home the bronze medal. First, the Mariners had to take on the host Seneca Sting for a chance to compete for bronze. Despite having the home crowd against them, the Mariners came out strong, picking up a 25-14 first set victory. The Mariners continued their strong play in the second set and overpowered their opponents, winning the set 25-16. The Mariners didn’t waste any time putting the match to bed in the third set. The Mariners sent the Sting home early with a 25-9 victory in the third set.

With their victory over the Sting, the Mariners found themselves up against the Nation’s top ranked team, the Garneau Elans. Both teams came out firing in the first set, trying desperately to take the early lead. Garneau took the hard fought first set by a score of 25-21. The second set played out much the same as the first, with the two teams trading points. It wasn’t until the last few points of the second set that Garneau started to pull away, taking the second set 25-21. But the Mariners refused to let Garneau win easily, battling back to take the third set 25-22. The Mariners were energized by their third set victory, and carried that momentum into the fourth set, where the Mariners tied the match at two sets apiece with a 25-18 win.

The game’s fifth and deciding set was as close as the rest of the match, with the two team staying tied until the Mariners managed to take a 10-8 lead. VIU didn’t look back from there as the Mariners picked up the 15-12 win and completed the comeback, knocking off the top ranked team in Canada 3-2.

For the Mariners, the bronze medal caps off a successful season. The Mariners finished the regular season on top of the PacWest standings with a 22-2 record. Then the Mariners earned their spot by making their way into the PacWest finals. On top of their first place finish in the standings and national bronze medal, the Mariners were also named Provincial Champions, defeating the Capilano Blues.