NANAIMO — A third place national ranking is a pretty good place to start 2018 for the VIU Mariners men's volleyball team.
The 10-2 Mariners get back on the court Friday with a home match against Columbia Bible College.
VIU's last regular season appearance was a win on November 25 against the University of Fraser Valley.
Since then there's been some practicing, time in the gym, and exhibition matches to keep the Mariners sharp.
Coach Abe Avender says VIU played some high level competition in their exhibition matches over the break, and he wants to maintain that level against a CBC team that sits at the bottom of the standings at 2-12.
"They're super competitive and they're similar aged guys that want to win games. So it's not one that you can just huck your jerseys on and think you're going to get through it," said Avender.
If the Mariners play to form they should be able to win their matches Friday and Saturday and set up a first place showdown at Capilano next weekend.
VIU will visit the 12-2 Blues on January 19 and 20.
Now that the second semester is starting Avender says the team needs to take another step forward, which means absorbing what the other team is doing and more game planning.
"First semester is about getting a ton of volume, get your touches, learn the system, do those kinds of things," Avender says. "Second semester is really tweaking it for your opponent."
That includes buying into to the principles of sports psychology and watching video of other teams.
The regular season wraps up on February 17 and then VIU will be looking for their first PACWEST provincial championship since 2007, and first ever national gold medal.
Last year the Mariners won the regular season title with a 21-3 record before finishing with a silver at provincials, and out of the medals at the CCAA national tournament.
The women's program resumes from Christmas break this weekend as well.
Coach Shane Hyde's team is ranked second in the CCAA and like the men they have a 10-2 record.
There may be some friendly bragging rights on the line to see which of these two great volleyball programs can put together the more impressive season.
It's a win/win for Vancouver Island University as both volleyball squads will try to build on the gold medal succcess enjoyed by the men's soccer team when they hosted the CCAA Nationals in November.
The matches this weekend are Friday starting at 6 p.m. and Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.
On twitter: @danmarshall77
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