Abbotsford – The University of the Fraser Valley basketball teams tip off the Canada West regular season this weekend, as they visit the UBC Thunderbirds.
Games run Friday (women 6 p.m., men 8 p.m.) and Saturday (women 5 p.m., men 7 p.m.) at War Memorial Gymnasium, and will be webcast at CanadaWest.tv.
The Cascades’ home openers are the following weekend, Nov. 3-4 vs. the Mount Royal Cougars at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre.
Men’s Basketball PREVIEW: Youth movement in full effect
2016-17 SEASON IN REVIEW
Regular-season record: 11-9 (10th in Canada West)
Post-season record: 1-2 (eliminated in Canada West first round)
This year’s edition of the Cascades men’s basketball team is easily the youngest of head coach Adam Friesen’s tenure, but there’s a lot of promising talent on the roster.
“We’re a group that understands that playing together is going to be the key to our success,” said Friesen, the Cascades’ sixth-year bench boss. “We’re going to try to be the aggressors as much as we can during games, and learn from our mistakes quickly. We want to make the game as up-and-down as we can, and get everyone opportunities to get on the floor and to grow.
“With youth comes energy, and we’d better have a lot of energy, especially off the bench. We’ve got 40 minutes each game to use it.”
That the Cascades are in the midst of a youth movement was already clear when the school year started, with last season’s starting backcourt (Manny Dulay and Vijay Dhillon) having graduated. But that reality has been further underscored by the loss of centre Nav Bains to a season-ending knee injury. Bains had been the lone fifth-year on the roster.
In his absence, the Cascades have just three players in their third or fourth years of eligibility – forwards Mark Johnson, Andrew Morris and Matt Cooley. The rest of the roster, including the entire backcourt, is comprised entirely of first- and second-year players.
Johnson (8.9 points, 6.1 rebounds per game last season) and Morris (8.4 points, 3.5 boards) are both in their fourth years, and both bring versatile offensive skillsets. Cooley will play a key role up front after missing the bulk of last season with a foot injury, and towering 6’10” sophomore Sukhman Sandhu is a potential impact player.
On the perimeter, versatile 6’5” swingman Daniel Adediran has had an outstanding preseason, and fellow sophomore Riley Braich takes over the starting point guard duties. Redshirt freshmen Sagar Dulay and Jordyn Sekhon will be in the mix for minutes, along with Vick Toor, a dynamic point guard from Seattle.
Women’s Basketball PREVIEW: Litman, Claggett among the leaders for Cascades
2016-17 SEASON IN REVIEW
Regular-season record: 12-8 (8th in Canada West)
Post-season record: 3-3 (eliminated in Canada West quarter-finals)
The UFV women’s basketball team brings back a solid core of veteran contributors as they set their sights on a deep Canada West playoff run.
The Cascades are coming off a 2016-17 campaign which saw them qualify for the Canada West playoffs for the seventh straight season. They defeated the Calgary Dinos in an epic first-round series at home, and took the eventual CW champ Saskatchewan Huskies to three games in their best-of-three quarter-final before finally succumbing.
The Cascades waved goodbye to Kayli Sartori, a U SPORTS All-Canadian in 2016 who played her fifth and final year of eligibility last season, but there’s still a lot of talent and experience on the roster as they prepare to embark on 2017-18.
Shayna Litman, Taylor Claggett and Sara Simovic lead the Cascades into the post-Sartori era. Fifth-year forward Litman is the last player remaining from the program’s national bronze medal-winning season of 2013-14, and she averaged 10.2 points and 5.2 rebounds last year. Claggett, a third-year forward, led Canada West in minutes (33.8 per game) and ranked fifth in rebounding (8.3 per game) while averaging 11.8 points. Fifth-year guard Simovic is a dynamic offensive presence who posted 9.6 points per game last year.
The Cascades welcome back point guard Kate Head after a one-year hiatus, and sophomores Jessica Zawada, Victoria Jacobse and Amanda Thompson are looking to build on solid rookie performances. First-year forward Katelyn Mallette has shown a knack for rebounding in the preseason.
“I think we have the potential to have a really good year,” said Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer, who enters his 16th season at the helm. “We have a good blend of veteran players with some younger kids, and the younger kids have played some really key minutes for us the last couple years. The entire group has had an extremely productive training season, and we’re really excited to see what that’s going to look like in Canada West play.”