Wrestling: Cascades win four medals at U SPORTS national championships
The University of the Fraser Valley wrestling program wrapped up a strong showing at the U SPORTS national championships, securing four individual medals on Saturday.
Competing at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., Jason Bains and Karan Dhillon won silver medals, while Calista Espinosa and Ali Rahguzar earned bronze. The four-medal performance is remarkable considering UFV took just five athletes to the championships, and is one shy of the program record of five medals established last year.
“Coming to the end of the season, we showcased what our talent is, and we brought some medals home that recognize all our hard work,” coach Gurjot Kooner said. “We have something to show for it.
“We’re happy we get to bring home some hardware, but we always focus on how we can improve.”
Bains faced a huge challenge in the men’s 100 kg final, taking on Clayton Pye of the host Brock Badgers. Pye, who won the Canadian Wrestling Trials in December, bloodied Bains’s right ear early in the match, necessitating a lengthy stoppage. When action resumed, Bains was unable to connect on his patented leg shots, and Pye was able to finish off the match by tech fall.
Dhillon, competing in the men’s 90 kg class, faced his nemesis in the final – Hunter Lee of the Saskatchewan Huskies, who had beaten him for gold at the Canada West championships two weeks ago. Lee got the better of Dhillon once again on Saturday, prevailing via tech fall. Nevertheless, the third-year Cascade secured his first U SPORTS medal after finishing fifth and sixth in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
Kooner acknowledged the quality of competition Bains and Dhillon faced in the finals, but felt they were capable of winning.
“I know they could pull those off, we just didn’t wrestle our own matches,” Kooner said. “They just need to wrestle their own match and get into that mindset.”
Espinosa, a fourth-place finisher at nationals as a rookie, earned a spot on the podium in her second U SPORTS appearance by virtue of a 4-2 victory over Concordia’s Kaleigh Prieur in the women’s 48 kg bronze medal match.
Rahguzar, competing in the men’s 68 kg weight class, also secured his first career U SPORTS medal. Taking on Canada West champ Devan Larkin of the Alberta Golden Bears in the bronze medal match, the two battled to a 4-4 draw, with Rahguzar prevailing on tie-breaking criteria. He had a two-point takedown along with a pair of single points, whereas Larkin’s points were all singles. Larkin had won both prior matches between the two this season.
Amarvir Atwal, the CW men’s wrestler of the year, finished fifth in the men’s 76 kg. He made short work of Guelph’s Pierre Arabadjian in his fifth/sixth placing match Saturday, winning 10-0 by tech fall.
“Overall, everyone performed pretty well,” Kooner summarized. “They all have something to be happy about, and something to work on.”
Women’s Volleyball: Cascades beat Blues for bronze to conclude PACWEST tenure
The University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team closed out its PACWEST era with one last memento: A conference bronze medal.
Facing the Capilano Blues in the PACWEST third-place match on Saturday afternoon at Douglas College, the Cascades bounced back from Friday’s semifinal defeat to the Vancouver Island University Mariners with a dominant performance, winning by scores of 25-15, 25-15 and 25-23.
It marked the program’s final PACWEST game – after 18 seasons as part of B.C.’s collegiate league (1983-85, and 2004-2020), the UFV volleyball teams are moving up to Canada West/U SPORTS for the 2020-21 campaign.
“Being able to win a bronze medal match, and really decisively, I think just shows we are on an upward climb and it sets us up for moving into Canada West,” Cascades head coach Janelle Rozema enthused afterward.
“Today we were really physically strong – we were serving tougher, hitting higher, hitting harder, and digging more balls. I think it took them (Capilano) a bit by surprise and it took them a bit to adjust to that. By the third set they were starting to pick up on the new UFV volleyball that was showing itself, but by that point I think we had created so much momentum that it was just hard to stop us.
“I’m glad we finished it in that third set. Capilano is a really good team, and we had to play our best volleyball in order to get the victory we did today.”
The teams went back-and-forth in the opening set, eventually finding themselves even at 13-13. However, it was the Cascades who leapt ahead 17-13 on the back of an Amanda Matsui ace, and a kill by Alysha Cooper. After a pair of side-outs Cooper went to work again, notching back-to-back service aces to help increase the UFV advantage to 21-14, and they closed it out 25-15 on a Kristen McBride kill.
With the score level at 3-3 in the second, the Cascades scored four straight points – once again featuring back-to-back aces from Cooper – to take a 7-3 lead. UFV extended the cushion to 18-7 after reeling off eight of 10 points in the middle stages, and Chelsea Kidd knocked down her third ace of the set late to help finish it off 25-15.
The Cascades built an 8-5 lead in the third, but the Blues fought back, drawing even at 11-11. From there, two straight aces by Kelsey Towers boosted Capilano to a 13-11 lead. UFV would regain the momentum in the middle of the set with McBride securing a kill and an ace in quick succession to take an 18-17 lead, only for the Blues to surge back in front 23-20. But the Cascades stormed back, leveling it at 23 to set up Matsui to strike back-to-back aces and end it 25-23.
UFV shone from the service line, knocking down a resounding 14 aces over the three sets.
“They’re showing some courage and not overthinking,” Rozema said of her team’s serving performance. “They’re just going to the service line and being smart but also aggressive – that takes a lot of courage and bravery to do.”
Middle Sedona Arabsky – the PACWEST rookie of the year – put in a dazzling performance for the Cascades, earning player of the game honours with eight kills on 14 swings. Cooper and Kidd were deadly from the service line with a game-high four aces each, while Matsui added three aces of her own to go with a team-high 11 kills.
Jaylene Lucas paced the Blues with eight kills on the night, and Meghan Koven and Eva Nagata both had six.
The victory marked the fourth time UFV has claimed the PACWEST bronze medal. Most recently, they won bronze in 2018 as tournament hosts.