UFV Sports Friday – Women’s Hoops Still Alive, Volleyball Heartbreak, Wrestling

Women’s Basketball: Cascades thrive under pressure, upset top-seeded Huskies to force Game 3

It sounds strange to say it, but do-or-die elimination games seem to be to closest thing to a comfort zone for the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team.

The Cascades improved to 3-0 when facing elimination in the Canada West post-season, knocking off the top-seeded Saskatchewan Huskies 74-62 on Friday evening in Saskatoon to force a Game 3 in their best-of-three quarter-final series.

The two teams will settle matters on Saturday at 2 p.m. Central time (12 p.m. Pacific), with the winner moving on to the Canada West Final Four.

“They like playing in these situations,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said of his squad. “It’s not ideal as a coach, but even when Saskatchewan made a push at the end, it almost calmed us down more than anything.

“I’ve never really had a group like this. I mean, they just go out and play, and they play different ways – we played a lot different tonight than we did last night. We had a real hard time last night running a lot of our sets, so tonight we just went back to more free-flowing (offence). It wasn’t really pretty, but they just played uninhibited, went for it, and made plays.”

The reigning national champion Huskies, coming off a decisive 78-55 win in Thursday’s Game 1, picked up where they left off in Game 2, racing out to a 13-3 lead five minutes in.

But the Cascades closed the first quarter on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to 13-12, and they dominated the second, outscoring Saskatchewan 22-11 in the frame to take a double-digit lead (34-24) into the locker room.

The Huskies closed to within 51-49 at the end of the third quarter after five straight points from standout point guard Sabine Dukate, but UFV answered every Sask surge with one of their own, ultimately reeling off a 9-0 run over the last three minutes of regulation to seal the victory.

In Game 1, Shayna Litman and Kayli Sartori had both scored 20-plus points for UFV, but they were the only Cascades with more than seven points. It was a much different situation in the rematch, as four Cascades scored in double figures – Sartori poured in 19 points to go with four assists, Taylor Claggett had 17 points and six rebounds, Sara Simovic had 14 points, and Litman notched 10 points and nine boards. Sydney Williams hit a trio of three-pointers to account for all of her nine points, and rookie forward Jessica Zawada scored four points in 17 crucial minutes off the bench.

As a team, UFV shot a scorching 50 per cent from the field and 87 per cent (20-for-23) from the free throw line.

Dukate posted a game-high 21 points for the Huskies, who shot just 36.5 per cent from the field, and Megan Lindquist (14 points) and Summer Masikewich (10 points) also chipped in offensively.

“I was really happy for Taylor – I know she wasn’t pleased with her play last night, and we just encouraged her to stay aggressive today and she did,” Tuchscherer said. “She made some big plays for us, and I thought Sara, in the second half, was huge.

“I think the key, more than anything, was we were down by quite a bit (in the first quarter), and we got JZ (Zawada) into the game. She did some good things right out of the gate, got some good movement going. That kind of tweaked something for the coaches – maybe if we go to more of a motion-style offence, it’ll work. I thought her contribution was huge tonight.”

Men’s Volleyball: Semifinal heartbreak for Cascades, Chargers prevail in four sets

The University of the Fraser Valley men’s volleyball squad saw an opportunity to qualify for the national championship elude them on Friday afternoon, as they dropped a four-set decision to the Camosun Chargers in the PACWEST semifinals in Nanaimo.

The Cascades, ranked No. 7 in the nation after finishing second in conference play, and the third-seeded Camosun Chargers were vying for not just a PACWEST title shot, but for one of the league’s two berths to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) championship at Fanshawe College in London, Ont., March 9-11.

The Chargers punched their ticket thanks in large part to an outstanding defensive performance, prevailing by scores of 25-20, 25-12, 19-25, 25-22. They move on to face the winner of Friday’s late semifinal between top-seeded host Vancouver Island University and the No. 5 Douglas Royals, while the UFV takes on the loser in the bronze medal match at 3 p.m. Saturday. All PACWEST championship matches are webcast at pacwestbc.tv.

“I don’t think we played our best, that’s obvious,” Cascades head coach Kyle Donen said. “We weren’t consistent when we needed to be. I don’t know if it was one specific area that broke down – we had areas in our game that would be really, really good, and then that would change. Some things just didn’t go our way tonight. The frustrating part was that they (the Chargers) played really well defensively tonight. They made some one-armed digs that gave them chances at extra points, and we weren’t able do the same ourselves.”

After the Chargers claimed a closely contested first set – aided by several untimely Cascades service errors – they took over in the second, quickly stretching the lead to double digits and cruising from there. It seemed that nothing UFV tried offensively resulted in the ball hitting the floor on the other side of the net, while Camosun could do little wrong.

The Cascades found their mojo in the third set behind some explosive serving from fifth-year right side Joel Kleingeltink – he sparked a 7-0 run midway through the set which gave UFV a 19-14 lead, and they finished it off from there.

But in the fourth, Camosun made a mid-set run of their own to erase what had been a three-point Cascades lead and surge ahead by four themselves, 18-14. The deficit proved too much for UFV to overcome.

The Cascades were paced by sophomore left side Ben Friesen’s game-high 17 kills, and libero Isaiah Dahl racked up 24 digs. Savana Walkingbear sparked the Camosun offence with 13 kills, while libero Elion Wong registered 21 digs en route to player of the match honours.

Regrouping mentally to play for bronze will be a challenge for a squad which had higher hopes, but Donen said the Cascades will be ready.

“I think the boys will recognize the importance, and they’ll come out a lot better tomorrow,” he said. “This day is done, and we know we can be a good enough team to get a medal. It was a goal from the start of the year to get a medal, and we still have a chance to win one.”

Wrestling: Hildenbrandt off to finals, Godinez Gonzalez notches memorable upset on Day 1 of nationals

Brad Hildenbrandt has grappled his way to the finals at the U SPORTS wrestling championships at the University of Winnipeg, with a chance to give the University of the Fraser Valley wrestling program its first-ever individual gold medal at nationals.

The sophomore from Surrey, B.C. went a perfect 3-0 on Friday to finish atop his men’s 120 kg pool and advance to Saturday’s title match, where he’ll face Kyle Bonk-Dann of the Western Mustangs. The match is set for 2:30 p.m. Central time (12:30 p.m. Pacific), and will be webcast at sportscanada.tv.

Hildenbrandt, the Canada West champ, will at least match the Cascades’ best-ever finish at U SPORTS nationals – Manheet Kahlon won a silver medal at 120 kg in 2015 – but silver isn’t the colour he’s dreaming of.

“Brad had some tough matches, but he pulled through,” UFV co-head coach Raj Virdi said. “He’s got to keep the same intensity he had throughout the whole tournament, try to limit his mistakes. Just keep doing what he’s been doing the whole year.”

Karla Godinez Gonzalez, a Canada West bronze medalist and the conference’s rookie of the year, authored “the biggest upset of the tournament,” in Virdi’s words, edging Jade Dufour of the Concordia Stingers 5-4 in the women’s 51 kg division. Dufour won a bronze medal at the 2016 Junior World Championships, but Godinez Gonzalez got the better of her on Friday.

Unfortunately for the UFV rookie, the result didn’t get her into a medal match on Saturday. She finished in a three-way tie atop her pool with Dufour and Amber Wiebe of the Regina Cougars – they each posted 2-1 records, but Dufour advanced to the gold medal match and Wiebe to the bronze match because they’d each notched a win via pin, thus earning more classification points. Coming out on the short end of the tiebreaker sends Godinez Gonzalez into the fifth-sixth placing match against Jessica Bershatsky of the Lakehead Thunderwolves, but her big win nevertheless created quite a sensation.

“That was pretty cool to watch,” Virdi marveled. “I’ve never seen that before – someone who’s gotten such a high placing (Dufour), and a freshman came and beat her. Every coach who watched it congratulated her.”

The Cascades’ two other entrants at nationals, Ashley Coupal (women’s 48 kg) and Amtoj Dhaliwal (men’s 82 kg), both came up empty in the win column on Day 1. Coupal will face Christine Grafe of the Western Mustangs in the fifth-sixth match, and Dhaliwal will face another Western opponent, Kevin Marshall, for seventh place on Saturday.

“It’s their first time being here, and nerves kind of got them,” Virdi said. “But that happens to every single freshman, really.”

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