In Week 3 of a season, it's tough to call any match a must win.
But it is almost getting to that point for the Vancouver Island University Mariners men's volleyball team after being swept by the College of the Rockies Avalanche and falling to 1-3 early in this Pacific Western Athletic Association season.
This weekend, however, they do not have an easy test on deck, travelling to Capilano University to play the defending provincial champion Blues.
Head coach Abe Avender is not looking for bounce back, he's looking for fight back.
"How do you respond to a loss?" he said. "Are you resilient and fight like a bastard, or are a roll over and die guy. We're going to start finding that out over the next little while. We're a deep enough team at certain positions, that if you can't hack it, I can't hack having you out there, so I'll move you."
Avender is jumping on the grenade for their play through the first two weeks, which included a split with the Camosun Chargers and the two five-set losses to COTR.
He says he underestimated how much work their skill development needed as he focused mainly on inserting systems. He has gone back to square one with his team, breaking down passing, digging, attacking, setting and serving throughout the week.
"We decided to go back to fundamentals, with 74 errors Saturday night and 55 errors on Sunday, right there is the answer to it," he said on Wednesday. "We dug 1,000 balls on Monday (at practice) and my arm feels like ass still, but I'll hit 1,000 more if it makes us better."
The Blues are off to a 3-1 start and return almost all of their provincial-championship team from last season.
Avender is also doing his best to keep the reality of the situation in check. This is just week three of a 14-week season that stretches into February.
"It's not like we're 1-11 and sucking wind to make playoffs, but that kick in the ass needs to happen soon, because if it doesn't all of a sudden you are looking at 1-5 or 1-7," said Avender.
The VIU women are coming off a disappointing performance against the Avalanche as well, the only difference is, they still managed to beat COTR with a pair of 3-0 victories.
Head coach Shane Hyde is doing his best to look beyond the lack of beauty in their past weekend and focus more on the continued process of building a national contender.
"I want to see them buy into the systems that we're playing - the blocking systems, the defensive systems," he said. "I want Ashley Cousens, our setter, to be creative in her set selection, and then I want everyone to have some fun and play at the level we practice at. We practice so much waiting for those big games that when we get to those big games, we can't hold back, we have to let loose a little bit."
The women are 4-0 through two weeks, having dropped just one set this season, in their opener to the Camosun Chargers. But they should have a more difficult time against Capilano, especially shutting down Nanaimo native Sydney Thornton, but they cannot just focus on the left side. "I think they're a stronger team than they were last year," said Hyde. "Compared to the two teams we've played so far. .. they have a more balanced attack."
Redmen take on Titans
The Nanaimo Redmen had their Vancouver Mainland Football League three-game winning streak snapped on the weekend with a 14-14 tie to the North Surrey Bears, and are looking to get back in the win column this weekend, back in Surrey against the White Rock South Surrey Titans. The Titans are 2-5 and are coming off a 21-10 loss to the second place Cowichan Bulldogs. The Redmen are in third place at 5-1-1.
VIU Mariners take on NAIA Northwest U
The Vancouver Island University Mariners basketball teams have a couple of tough exhibtion games this weekend as they prepare for the PacWest season. The women host NAIA school Northwest University on Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at noon. The men travel to Seattle to play Multnomah College on Saturday and Portland Bible College on Sunday.
ON DECK - The Nanaimo Clippers are at Bear Mountain on Friday to play the Victoria Grizzlies at 7 p.m. and host the Trail Smoke Eaters on Sunday at 2 p.m.. .. The Vancouver Island Raiders are in Windsor to play the AKO Fratmen in the Josten's Cup Canadian Junior Football League semifinal. .. The VIU Mariners host the men's and women's PacWest soccer championships at Merle Logan Field on Saturday and Sunday.
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