Top-ranked Mariners earn three-set win over Cascades

Matt Whittall racked up 10 kills and 11 digs for the Cascades, but the VIU Mariners prevailed in three sets. (UFV Athletics file photo)

The Vancouver Island University Mariners lived up to their advance billing on Friday night, defeating the University of the Fraser Valley men’s volleyball team in three straight sets at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre.

The Mariners came into Friday’s action in possession of the No. 1 spot in the CCAA national rankings, and the match’s turning point came at the end of the first set. The Cascades, No. 15 in the CCAA poll, were playing well and had built a 22-20 lead, but the Mariners reeled off five straight points to take it 25-22. They would go on to win the next two sets by scores of 25-21 and 25-19.

The Cascades (9-10) get another crack at the Mariners (16-3) on Saturday afternoon (3 p.m., Envision Financial Athletic Centre North Gym, pacwestbc.tv).

“I think we did some good things – we just weren’t able to sustain pressure on them for an entire set,” UFV head coach Kyle Donen analyzed. “We were doing a decent job offensively, we just didn’t sustain it because we were giving up runs because of our passing. We struggled to pass the ball towards the end of pretty much each set. And we gave them a chance to stay close to us because we were missing too many serves as well.”

Cascades left sides Nick Bruce and Ben Friesen were outstanding in the first set, but the Mariners were able to rally in the late stages.

“That was a really good set for us, and we let it slip at the wrong time,” Donen noted. “We had a chance to take that, and it would have changed the whole match.”

Bruce, Friesen and Matt Whittall continued to have success in the second set, which was tied 15-15, but a few errors by the Cascades allowed VIU to pull away.

The third set was a hitter’s game, with tied scores at 10, 13 and 16. But the Mariners started setting stronger blocks, which combined with service and passing errors from the Cascades, allowed the visitors to seal the victory.

Friesen and Whittall tied for team-high honours with 10 kills apiece, and Bruce registered nine. Whittall added 11 digs, and setter Adam Frederickson had 29 assists.

by Raelyn O’Hara, Cascades communications assistant

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