Women’s Basketball: Cascades fall to Huskies in hard-fought Game 3
After a thrilling run, the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team’s playoff bandwagon finally ran out of gas on Saturday afternoon in Saskatoon, as the Cascades dropped a 78-69 decision to the reigning national champion Saskatchewan Huskies.
The Huskies, seeded No. 1 in the Canada West playoff bracket, were heavily favoured in the best-of-three conference quarter-final series, and they lived up to that billing on Thursday with a 78-55 Game 1 victory. The Cascades, though, bounced back with an impressive performance in a 74-62 Game 2 triumph on Friday, improving to 3-0 when facing elimination this post-season. (Previously, UFV had come from behind to defeat the Calgary Dinos in the first round.)
But on Saturday, the Huskies stretched a one-point halftime lead to double digits in the third quarter, and had an answer for every UFV surge down the stretch.
Saskatchewan will host the Canada West Final Four, while the Cascades’ season is over.
“I’m just more proud of our girls than anything,” UFV head coach Al Tuchscherer said afterward. “To play six games in nine days, and four of them are do-or-die, it takes a lot out of you physically and mentally. We’re leaving this season without a lot of gas left in the tank, and that’s kind of what you want to do.”
The Cascades were not just exhausted, they were a banged-up group heading into Game 3. Fourth-year forward Shayna Litman was involved in a collision in the dying moments of Game 2 was taken to the hospital immediately post-game with back spasms. She didn’t get back to the team hotel until 3:30 a.m., but was able to loosen things up enough to play on Saturday and gave the Cascades nine points and four rebounds in 31 minutes.
“I’m really proud of her for even going today, and the effort she put in,” Tuchscherer said of Litman. “They tried to go at her a little bit, but she kept digging in.”
Huskies point guard Sabine Dukate opened the game with back-to-back three-pointers, but the Cascades got a pair of triples from Syd Williams in the first quarter and were within striking distance at the end of the frame, down 22-18. The hosts pulled ahead by as many as eight points in the second, but UFV responded with a 12-3 run and were within 33-32 at halftime.
The Huskies surged ahead by nine points in the third quarter, but back-to-back triples from rookies Amanda Thompson and Victoria Jacobse cut the deficit to 55-52 late in the frame. Sask’s Megan Ahlstrom answered with five quick points in the final minute to push the advantage back to 60-52 heading to the fourth, and the closest the Cascades got from that juncture was four points. A pair of Kayli Sartori free throws cut the margin to 62-58 with 5:42 left in regulation, but a 10-2 Huskies run sealed the result.
Taylor Claggett had a huge game for the Cascades, going 13-for-16 from the free throw line en route to 19 points to go with nine rebounds. Williams finished with 11 points, while Sartori registered 10 points, six assists and five rebounds.
Sask’s Dukate and Summer Masikewich tied Claggett for game-high scoring honours with 19 points, and Ahlstrom finished with 18 points.
“You could see us kind of hit a wall in the third quarter,” Tuchscherer said. “We started to break down mentally a little bit, and Saskatchewan really took advantage of those breakdowns. But the girls just fought hard right to the end of the game.”
Saturday’s result marked the end of Sartori’s distinguished Cascades career, and Litman is likely to hang up her hightops as well – she’s set to complete her degree over the summer.
Wrestling: Hildenbrandt wins Cascades’ first U SPORTS gold medal
Brad Hildenbrandt carved out a slice of University of the Fraser Valley athletic history on Saturday afternoon, becoming the first Cascades wrestler to win a U SPORTS national gold medal.
The sophomore from Surrey, B.C. edged Kyle Bonk-Dann of the Western Mustangs 5-4 in a thrilling men’s 120 kg final at the national wrestling championships, hosted by the University of Winnipeg.
Bonk-Dann held a 2-0 lead at the end of the first of two rounds after pushing Hildenbrandt out of bounds, but the UFV grappler went on the offensive in the second. He scored an early takedown to tie the match, and later initiated an offensive flurry which saw both wrestlers pick up two points. Hildenbrandt finished the sequence by spinning around to get on top of Bonk-Dann and earn an additional point, and that turned out to be the difference in the match.
“You know, it feels pretty good right now but it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Hildenbrandt said afterward. “It’s pretty cool to win our first gold medal, and I hope we have a lot more in the future.”
UFV’s previous best individual result at wrestling nationals was a silver medal by a fellow heavyweight, Manheet Kahlon, in 2015.
“As a coach, I don’t think there’s any better feeling than seeing an athlete you’ve been working with succeed,” said Raj Virdi, who serves as the Cascades’ co-head coach with Arjan Bhullar. “That was one tough match, and it came down to the last 20 seconds and Brad pulled through. The guy he wrestled was the OUA (Ontario University Athletics) champ, and it was great to see him get it done.”
Three other Cascades wrestlers were in action earlier Saturday, and all three came away victorious. Karla Godinez Gonzalez, who had finished in a three-way tie atop her women’s 51 kg pool but was relegated to the fifth/sixth placing match on tiebreaking criteria, made the best of the situation by defeating Jessica Bershatsky of the Lakehead Thunderwolves 10-0.
Ashley Coupal (women’s 48 kg) and Amtoj Dhaliwal (men’s 82 kg) also won their matches via technical superiority by matching 10-0 scores. Both were facing Western Mustangs opponents – Coupal knocked off Christine Grafe in the fifth/sixth match, while Dhaliwal beat Kevin Marshall in the seventh/eighth match.
“It’s a great way to cap off the year for the program, especially individually for Brad,” Bhullar summarized. “It’s exciting to be back at the national tournament, and to come home with a gold medal.”
Men’s Volleyball : Royals rally, deny Cascades in PACWEST bronze medal game
The Douglas Royals authored a stunning comeback at the expense of the University of the Fraser Valley men’s volleyball team on Saturday, claiming the PACWEST bronze medal in a wild five-set match at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo.
The Cascades – seeded second in the conference and ranked No. 7 in the nation – were coming off a four-set loss to the Camosun Chargers 24 hours earlier in the semifinals with a CCAA championship berth on the line. They started slowly in the bronze medal match, dropping the first set 25-18, but looked more like themselves in the second and third, prevailing by scores of 25-20 and 25-23, the latter set sealed by a massive Joel Kleingeltink kill.
The fourth set was a back-and-forth struggle – UFV went on an early seven-point run behind Dan Tang’s serving to go up 7-2, and they led 14-9 and 18-14 at later junctures. The Royals responded with an 8-2 run to surge ahead 22-20, but the next four points belonged to the Cascades – the last two coming courtesy of middle Dayton Pagliericci, who got a block followed by a kill.
That set up UFV with two match points, but Douglas put the ball away off the next UFV serve for a side out, and subsequently blocked Kleingeltink to tie it up 24-24. From there, they managed to claw out a 28-26 win to force a fifth set, where they led wire-to-wire and took it 15-8.
“It wasn’t our weekend, and it wasn’t our game,” Cascades head coach Kyle Donen said afterward. “We kind of let Douglas back in and gave them a shot, and they took it. I hope we learned a lesson for the guys who are coming back, and for this program moving forward.”
To finish within a whisker of the podium was particularly tough to process in light of the Cascades’ stellar regular season, which saw them post a 17-7 record (with two losses via forfeit after a road trip to College of the Rockies was cancelled due to road conditions) and earn a first-round playoff bye.
“That’s the toughest part for right now,” said Donen, whose program is waving goodbye to fifth-year all-star Kleingeltink. “It’s hard to understand how good of a year we had, based on the way we finished. But that’s the truth – we had a great regular season.
“It didn’t transfer into the playoffs, but I hope it fuels the fire for the guys coming back.”