On Wednesday, March 11, the NBA suspended it’s season with the NHL and other professional, junior and school leagues following suit.
VIU’s first match came against Edouard Montpetit on Thursday, March 12. Following the Mariners 3-0 win, the first alteration to the tournament came.
“Right after that match they announced there weren’t going to be any more fans allowed,” Amanda Dobbyn, a fifth year Mariner said. “They did allow family members to come in and watch the games. Our families who were there helped to make it really loud.”
Coach Shane Hyde has been involved in numerous CCAA tournaments but said there was no way to prepare for a situation that was constantly evolving.
“Never have I experienced anything like this,” Hyde said. “We thought the whole thing was going to be cancelled.”
A handful of consolation matches, along with the closing ceremonies were scrapped by organizers in an effort to limit the spread of the virus…but championship games progressed.
VIU won their semi final against Fanshawe College 3-1 on Friday March 13, then beat the host team from Garneau 3-1 in the gold medal match the following day.
The protocols were slightly different from other tournaments with the players not being able to shake hands after matches.
However, with social distancing not fully part of society at that point the celebration on the court was filled with hugs from a very emotional group according to Dobbyn. She immediately went to her fellow fifth year veteran Andrea Cankovic.
“We’re both leaving and I know she wanted it so badly,” Dobbyn said. “I was thinking about her for sure.”
Kayla Passmore, a member of all three VIU gold medal wins during their ‘threepeat’ admitted it will take a long time for the win to sink in.
“We had that feeling of ‘oh my gosh…this could really happen, who’s the ball going to go to,’ it was surreal,” Passmore said. “We’re just always chasing excellence with this VIU program. I don’t know what it’s like to not get a national gold which seems crazy.”
The distraction of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic forced changes to game preparation for the team.
Hyde said it was another layer of adversity added to an already complex season.
“We had one day where our bus broke down and caught on fire,” Hyde said. “This season has been one of those seasons where we’ve had so many weird things happen to us and we addressed that in Quebec City.
Following the championship, the team travelled home to a campus in Nanaimo that was shutting down in response to the virus and went straight into a voluntary self-isolation.
Hyde added the global situation was in no way comparable to missing ferries or having games adjusted due to weather, however it served as an example of being ready for anything and just focusing on playing volleyball.
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