Reader, Mariners eye national championship

Cheyla Reader plans to cap her final year of university volleyball with a national championship.

Highland Secondary grad Cheyla Reader is one of the top-ranked players in British Columbia. She is hoping to help the VIU Mariners capture a national championship later this year. Photo by Greg Sakaki / Black Press

Cheyla Reader plans to cap her final year of university volleyball with a national championship.

Which would be fitting, since she is one of the top female players in the province and has the resume, and the team, to back up that high expectation.

Reader, a Highland Secondary grad, attended Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford for four years and obtained her degree. That left her with one year of university eligibility, and opportunity came knocking in the person of Shane Hyde.

“I ran into (the Vancouver Island University Mariners’ coach) at VIU and told him I was going back to school. He’s like, ‘Play for me!’ It was just an offer I couldn’t refuse,” the 24-year-old power hitter recalled.

Reader said she and Hyde are old friends, and they joke that her signing with the Nananimo-based Mariners this year makes up for him not recruiting her out of high school.

The Mariners’ main competition in British Columbia Collegiate Athletic Association (BCCCAA) play is the UBC Okanagan Heat, who have won the last two national championships. “We beat them in our first match-up, which was exciting,” said Reader. That victory vaulted VIU past the Heat into the No. 1 spot in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) rankings.

“We play them twice more in their gym; another time in regular league and another time in provincials. No pressure there,” Reader smiled.

Reader feels winning the provincials (Feb. 24-26 at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna) is “very doable” and is looking forward to the nationals (March 11-12 at St. John, N.B).

There are several good reasons Hyde was happy to welcome Reader to the lineup. After the first semester of BCCAA play, she was second in both kills and total offensive stats (kills, blocks and aces) and 12th in digs.

This year, the 5’,11” Reader was an all-star at the Capilano Blues tournament and earned BCCAA Player of the Week for Nov. 5. Past achievements include BCCAA first team all-star 2005-06, 2006-07, 2008-09; CCAA Academic All-Canadian 2005-06, 2006-07; and BCCAA Championships first team all-star 2006-07.

Reader notes the Mariners have gone to nationals in 12 of the past 13 years and are a perennial top-five team in the nation.

“Three years ago we won the nationals and had a perfect season (18-0 league, 2-0 provincials, 3-0 nationals), and there’s two girls from that team still on the team. Apparently we’re very much like that team – no pressure or anything! (Hyde) often says we’re very similar. We really enjoy playing together. Obviously we have our ups and downs, but at the end of the (first) semester we were having more fun than at the beginning. That says with. It’s a great group of girls.”

SIDE OUTS Over the Christmas break the Mariners held a training camp in Hawaii, and Reader’s brother Martin – the current Canadian beach volleyball champion – kiddingly suggested the tropical Hawaiian beaches just might convince his sister to embrace the great outdoor version of the game … G.P. Vanier grad Heather Huxham of Black Creek plays middle for the Mariners and is 13th in BCCAA aces …

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