UFV Sports Saturday – Wrestling Honours, Men’s Hoops Playoff Bound

Wrestling: Atwal earns athlete of the year honours as Cascades net five medals at CW championships

The University of the Fraser Valley wrestling program turned in an outstanding collective performance at the Canada West wrestling championships in Calgary, and it was Amar Atwal leading the way.

Atwal dominated the men’s 76 kilogram weight class, upsetting reigning Canada West champ Miles Kent of the Alberta Golden Bears on his way to a perfect 3-0 record in the round robin. He was rewarded with the Canada West male athlete of the year award, as voted by the coaches. The sophomore from Surrey, B.C. becomes the second straight Cascade to earn the CW wrestler of the year accolade, following in the footsteps of Brad Hildenbrandt, last year’s winner.

The rest of the Cascades’ contingent won no less than silver in their respective weight classes. Jason Bains joined Atwal on the top step of the podium, winning the men’s 100 kg; Calista Espinosa took silver in the women’s 48 kg; Ali Rahguzar finished second in the highly competitive men’s 68 kg; and Karan Dhillon won silver in the men’s 90 kg.

“The team performed really well,” enthused coach Gurjot Kooner. “This is where we want to be at this point of the season. A lot of them will continue on after the U SPORTS championships (Feb. 21-22 in St. Catharines, Ont.) to the junior and senior national championships, and they’re all peaking at the right time. They all showed a lot of improvement this weekend.”

The Cascades brought the smallest roster to the CW championships, but they showed their quality right away, going 5-0 in their first dual vs. the host Calgary Dinos.

As for the UFV gold medalists, Atwal opened with an 11-2 decision vs. Calgary’s John Fayad, and followed with a technical-superiority victory (16-6) over Saskatchewan’s Micah Heide. His finale was against the favoured Kent, who built an early lead, but Atwal rallied. Off a scramble, he trapped Kent on his back for the pin.

Bains crushed the competition at 100 kg, winning both of his matches – vs. Caglary’s Steven Sheppard and Saskatchewan’s Reid Smyth – by technical superiority, 10-0.

“Amar wrestled really well, didn’t make any mistakes,” Kooner said. “His offence is really good, his hand fighting is really good, he just had to have the confidence he can beat those guys.

“And Jason wasn’t challenged too much at this tournament, but we’ll see how it goes at U SPORTS.”

Saskatchewan won the men’s team title with 43 points, ahead of Alberta (38), Calgary (30) and UFV (20). In women’s action, Calgary topped the field with 36 points to outdistance Sask (32), Alberta (22) and UFV (4).

Men’s Volleyball (Jordie Arthur, Cascades communications assistant): Avalanche complete sweep of Cascades

The University of the Fraser Valley men’s volleyball team dropped a three-set decision to the College of the Rockies Avalanche for the second consecutive day on Saturday in Cranbrook.

The Avalanche (8-16) prevailed 25-19, 25-13, and 25-14 to wrap up the weekend sweep over the Cascades (5-17). The result locks UFV into the PACWEST’s sixth seed with one week remaining in the regular season.

Cascades head coach Nathan Bennett had lauded his team’s battle level in Friday’s hard-fought loss at COTR – all three sets were decided by the minimum two points – but felt his team was unable to match that level in Saturday’s rematch.

“It was the exact opposite of what we saw yesterday, and what we expected,” Bennett analyzed. “But at the end of the day, our playoff position is solidified, and we’ll start to prepare for the 20th of February.”

The Cascades took a 9-4 lead in the first with Caleb Kastelein and Landon Uy each posting two kills, but it was short-lived as the Avalanche surged back to even the match 10-10 after consecutive blocks by Carter Brodner and Mason Hoffman. COTR gained a 16-13 advantage following a Gustavo Bertoli ace. The teams traded points through the middle of the set, but the Avalanche closed it out 25-19 after scoring the final three points.

Bertoli once again used his serving to bolster his club in the second, knocking down consecutive aces to give COTR a 4-1 lead. UFV chipped away at the deficit, eventually levelling the score at nine apiece, but the Avalanche would not be stopped as they put up 16 of the next 20 points to take it 25-13.

COTR flew out to an 8-3 lead in the third on Quinn Grist’s third kill of the set. The Avalanche would make no mistake from there, extending their lead to 18-9 and they sealed the victory on a Bertoli kill, 25-14.

Kastelein paced the Cascades with seven kills, while Uy added three kills and a team-high eight digs.

Grist and Hudson Goertz shared the team lead in kills for the Avalanche with seven apiece, while Bertoli had a large impact adding six kills and four aces.

The Cascades volleyball teams conclude the PACWEST regular season this week, taking on crosstown rival Columbia Bible College in a home-and-home set. Games run Friday at CBC (women 6 p.m., men 8 p.m.) and Saturday at UFV (women 5 p.m., men 7 p.m.).

Women’s Volleyball: Avalanche rally past Cascades for four-set win

A promising start gave way to a tough finish for the University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team, as they fell in four sets to the College of the Rockies Avalanche on Saturday afternoon in Cranbrook.

The Cascades (9-13) took the first set 25-20, but the Avalanche (10-14) came roaring back to take the next three – 27-25, 25-19 and 25-23.

“I just think we’re working really hard to create a cushion in sets, and then we relax and lose the urgency,” UFV head coach Janelle Rozema said, analyzing the Avalanche’s propensity for comebacks, both in Friday’s five-set UFV win and again on Saturday. “When we go on a run, we need to have more of a killer instinct. We didn’t have that today. It really affected us when they battled their way back in, and we got a little bit nervous.”

In the first set, the Cascades raced out to a 10-4 lead on the strength of seven straight serves from Chelsea Kidd, capped by an ace. Middle Sedona Arabsky thrived during this stretch, hammering down three straight kills. The Avalanche would rally to cut the deficit to 21-20, but UFV reeled off the next four points, with Amanda Matsui coming through with back-to-back aces to close it out.

The Avalanche quickly seized control in the second, building a 7-2 advantage. They carried that lead throughout much of the set, but UFV staged a late rally, chopping down a 21-15 deficit to tie it 22-22 with Matsui picking up a pair of kills during the surge. The Cascades would go up 24-23, but COTR staved off set point and went on to take it 27-25 after back-to-back attack errors for UFV.

The hosts took over the third set in the middle stages, with a pair of Taylor Whittall kills helping the Avalanche pull ahead 19-14. UFV battled back to within 21-19 after an Arabsky kill and a Kristen McBride service ace in succession, but COTR responded with four straight points, highlighted by two aces from Abigail Gruenhage to close it out.

The Cascades appeared in control in the fourth, building leads of 11-4 and 21-16, but COTR’s Claire Sheppard served for five straight points and Whittall picked up three key kills as the Avalanche rallied to take a 23-21 lead. Whittall wrapped things up with a kill.

UFV’s outside hitters – Matsui (14 kills, 12 digs), Kidd (14 kills, 10 digs) and McBride (10 kills, 14 digs) – all had double-doubles, and Arabsky notched eight kills. Setter Kara Williams finished with 35 assists.

Ecaterina Arabadji (13), Whittall (10) and Maisa Orosz (10) all hit double-digit kills for COTR.

The Cascades volleyball teams conclude the PACWEST regular season this week, taking on crosstown rival Columbia Bible College in a home-and-home set. Games run Friday at CBC (women 6 p.m., men 8 p.m.) and Saturday at UFV (women 5 p.m., men 7 p.m.).

Men’s Basketball: Cascades lock up home playoff date with win over Cougars

With Sukhjot Bains leading a fourth-quarter charge, the University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team clinched a home playoff date in their regular-season finale, topping the Regina Cougars 85-74 on Saturday at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre.

The Cougars had snapped the Cascades’ nine-game win streak on Friday by a score of 87-70, putting UFV’s hopes of hosting a playoff game in peril. But the Cascades (13-7) bounced back in a big way to clinch the No. 7 seed in Canada West. They’ll host the No. 10 Winnipeg Wesmen next Friday at the EFAC. The Cougars (10-10), meanwhile, finish as the No. 9 seed and will visit the No. 8 Lethbridge Pronghorns in the first round.

“You always want to win on your senior night, with friends and family in the crowd,” UFV head coach Adam Friesen said, alluding to the post-game ceremony to honour fifth-year players Sukhjot Bains, Parm Bains and Matt Cooley. “But as a group, we understood what was at stake. Everyone was excited about the opportunity to host a playoff game next weekend.

“Our seniors came up big – they made some really big offensive plays, no doubt. But containing Regina’s transition offence in the second half as well as only having two turnovers in the second half ourselves allowed us to stay in the game long enough to find a little offensive spark.”

The Cougars led by as many as eight points in the first quarter, but the Cascades put together a 10-1 run early in the second – ignited by a pair of Sukhjot Bains treys – to grab a 28-24 lead. Regina’s Benjamin Hillis, though, scored five straight to end the frame, giving the visitors a 41-39 advantage at the break.

The game stayed close throughout the third quarter, with UFV’s Vick Toor scoring in the paint to give his team a 59-57 edge heading to the fourth.

The Cascades opened the final frame on a 10-0 run, with Parm Bains scoring five points in that stretch, and Sukhjot Bains took over from there. With Regina threatening, back to within 74-68 with three and a half minutes left in regulation, the senior guard hit a highly contested three-pointer to swing the momentum back to the hosts. That sparked a 9-0 UFV run – capped, appropriately, by another Sukhjot Bains trey, his sixth of the night, to salt the game away with the Cascades up 83-68.

“Big players make big plays, and credit to him,” Regina head coach Steve Burrows said of Sukhjot Bains, who finished with a game-high 24 points, nine rebounds and three assists.

“I don’t think we rebounded the ball well enough in the fourth quarter. They got some second-chance ones, which you can’t do against a team that can score the ball as well as they can. We didn’t close down some possessions as well as we needed to in the fourth quarter, and that’s that.”

Parm Bains racked up 17 points and six assists for the Cascades, Toor had 13 points, six boards and five assists, and Cooley had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Benjamin Hillis (16 points, eight rebounds, eight assists), Greishe Clerjuste (14), Samuel Hillis (13) and Shaquille Harris (12) scored in double figures for Regina.

Afterward, Friesen lauded the contributions of his three seniors.

“Those guys have meant a whole bunch,” he said. “They’ve come in and represented the program well on and off the court, and they’ve sacrificed a lot of time and energy for the program. They’ve really turned themselves this year into excellent leaders whose influence will be felt for years to come through our young guys.”

BOUNCE PASSES: Parm Bains has established a new Canada West career record for three-pointers per game. He’s averaged 3.24 treys per game over his career with the Cascades, eclipsing the previous mark of 2.98 set by former SFU and UBC standout Pasha Bains. . . . Parm also set a new team record for threes in a season with 79, edging Manny Dulay’s mark of 78 established in 2016-17. That’s the third-most treys in a season in CW history – the record of 82 is co-held by Nathan Dixon (Manitoba Bisons, 2008-09) and Daniel Ferguson (Alberta Golden Bears, 2010-11). Dixon played 22 games to set the record, and Ferguson played 24 to equal it, as CW played a longer schedule in those days.

Women’s Basketball: Fast-starting Cascades top Cougars on Senior Night

A red-hot start powered the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team to a 74-65 triumph over the Regina Cougars on Saturday at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre.

On a night where the Cascades celebrated the careers of graduating players Taylor Claggett and Amanda Thompson, they were a motivated group from the opening tip, racing out to an 18-6 lead over the first five minutes of play. From there, they weathered several Regina runs on their way to their 11th straight victory.

It was the Canada West regular-season finale for both teams; UFV (16-4) will host Thompson Rivers in the first round of the playoffs, while Regina (8-12) visits the Victoria Vikes.

“You’re never sure whether the players are maybe too excited to play for their seniors, so there’s always that worry,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said afterward. “But clearly, we jumped right out of the gate and had a tremendous first quarter, and that really carried us for the rest of the game.

“The other thing that really impressed me about our team was, Regina made a few runs, and we’re really comfortable in that situation now. A team makes a run against us, and we bear down and we’re able to pull away a little bit again.”

The Cascades scored on seven of their first eight offensive possessions, capped by back-to-back triples from Nikki Cabuco, to seize control early. Regina battled back and cut the deficit to 28-21 after Madeline Tell and Zoe Hartmann hit consecutive triples to open the second quarter, but UFV held them scoreless over the next four-plus minutes and extended the lead to 35-21. At the half, the hosts led 39-30.

The Cougars opened the third on an 11-2 run to get back to within two at 43-41, but a quick 8-0 response from the Cascades, highlighted by triples from Deanna Tuchscherer and Alexis Worrell, stemmed the tide. UFV would push the lead back to 14 before a late Regina push got it to 72-65 with just over a minute left in regulation, but Claggett inserted the dagger, hitting a floater in the lane with the shot clock winding down.

Regina head coach Dave Taylor noted that his team never was able to recover after falling behind by double digits early.

“They came out on fire, and talented teams, when you let them get going like that, they start hitting everything because they’re talented,” Taylor said. “Al does a great job with running stuff, and they made some great adjustments from yesterday. Both days, they came out on fire shooting the ball. Fortunately the first night we were able to score and keep it close, tonight we couldn’t.”

Deanna Tuchscherer bolstered her CW rookie of the year candidacy with a game-high 20 points, Claggett stuffed the stat sheet with 17 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, and Cabuco scored nine off the bench. Thompson’s final regular-season game saw her post six points, three rebounds and two assists.

Tell (15 points), Michaela Kleisinger (14 points, six assists) and Macaela Crone (12) all scored in double digits for the Cougars.

Afterward, the Cascades retreated to the dressing room to celebrate with Senior Night honourees Claggett and Thompson and reflect on their careers.

“We had a little bit of adversity at the front end of their careers, and it didn’t go exactly how we thought it was going to go,” Tuchscherer said, “I’m just really happy that this year they’ve been able to thrive individually, and our team has been able to thrive, so they’ve been able to experience a season like that. You can do nothing but just thank them for the full effort and work and leaders they’ve been. They’re all-time Cascades.”

BOUNCE PASSES: Claggett etched her name in the CW record book yet again on Saturday, setting a new conference record for free throws in a season. She went 7-for-9 from the line to get to 145 free throws in 2019-20, breaking the previous record of 141 set by former Cascade Jane Meadwell (2009-10).

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