Just two weekends of regular season volleyball remain for the Mariners, and the men’s team is peaking at the right time. VIU is in a battle for second place in the PacWest standings, with the top two teams getting a quarter-final bye at Provincials later this month.

Mariners head coach Abe Avender says the team lost some jump over Christmas break and came into January playing rusty, but has looked much better the past few weeks.

“We always try to keep getting better all year and we’re starting to be a lot more consistent with our play,” Avender says. “Setters are starting to put the ball where they should be, guys can trust that they’re gonna be there, and defensive errors are a lot less. I think it’s becoming more tidy.”

The Mariners closed out the month with two wins over Columbia Bible College. Both games were won in straight sets, much to the pleasure of VIU Nation.

Fifth-year player Lee Hamilton dominated the first match with eight kills, while Dillon Collett was strong in both matches and gained notice of his coach.

“He hits the ball higher than most guys, has a huge block, and even his energy [helps us] because he’s a fourth year guy. He’s been a huge veteran leader,” Avender says.

Veteran players have taken on an important role with the Mariners this season in providing leadership for the young team. VIU has eight first and second-year players on its roster, but have performed remarkably well this season.

“I think for the young guys that we have, they were mature almost right away—or they had to be because they were in the role,” Avender says.

“We have such a huge upside over the next few years if we stick together. We’ve become such a tight crew already, which is really neat to have the young guys join in and buy into the conditioning and nutrition.”

VIU closes out the regular season with home games against Douglas College and Camosun College. The Douglas match will give the Mariners an opportunity to test themselves against the top team in Canada, and Avender hopes students will come out to cheer on the M’s.

“Teams don’t like coming here because our crowd’s pretty loud and it’s a neat atmosphere,” Avender says.

Catch VIU take on Douglas Feb. 8–9 and rivals Camosun Feb. 14–16.