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UFV Sports Friday – Basketball/Volleyball Playoffs

Abbotsford – Women’s Basketball: T-Birds knock off Cascades 62-48 in Game 1

The UBC Thunderbirds locked it down on defence in the fourth quarter to earn a 62-48 win over the UFV Cascades in Game 1 of their Canada West women’s basketball first-round playoff series.

Playing at UFV’s Envision Athletic Centre on Friday evening, the Thunderbirds held a slim 43-41 lead heading into the fourth quarter. But they outscored the Cascades 19-7 in the final frame to claim a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three set.

The Cascades will look to extend the series in Game 2, which goes Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Envision Athletic Centre. Game 3, if necessary, would tip off at 5 p.m. on Sunday at the EAC.

“Just a really disappointing approach to the game tonight,” UFV head coach Al Tuchscherer said, analyzing his team’s performance. “We were really caught up in the moment. We didn’t execute how we wanted to execute, and we were really individual on both ends of the court. That led to a lot of frustration, and I think that showed tonight. We’ve got a lot to figure out in the next 24 hours, for sure.”

The Cascades had a promising start, scoring on their first two possessions to go up 4-0. But they failed to score another point for five minutes and the two teams ended the first quarter deadlocked at 11-11.

UBC led 25-24 at the half, and gained some separation with a 9-0 run midway through the third quarter, highlighted by a Shilpa Khanna three-pointer, to go up 40-32.

The Cascades responded with some long-distance pyrotechnics of their own, swishing triples on three straight possessions – two by Sydney Williams and one by Hailey Kendall – to cut the deficit to 42-41 late in the third quarter.

The T-Birds, though, pulled away in the fourth – they held the Cascades scoreless over the last five-plus minutes of the game, while scoring 10 points of their own during that span with treys from Diana Lee and Khanna.

Canada West scoring champ Kayli Sartori posted game-high totals of 17 points and 12 rebounds, but the only other UFV player to score in double digits was Shayna Cameron with 10. UBC had four double-digit scorers – Jessica Hanson (13 points), Kara Spotton (11), Adrienne Parkin (10) and Khanna (10).

“I thought both teams were tight coming out – I don’t think either team played their best basketball in the first half,” UBC head coach Deb Huband said. “We’ve been working hard on our defence, and when you play good team defence, you can give yourself a little bit of room to underperform offensively, which I think we did for a portion of the game. But I think we really locked down in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line.”

The Cascades’ struggles on offence weren’t limited to the fourth quarter. They shot just 33.3 per cent from the field for the game, which wasn’t much worse than UBC’s 36.7 per cent mark. But what really hurt them were the 26 turnovers they surrendered against the T-Birds’ aggressive ball denial in the passing lanes. UBC had just 13 turnovers.

“I think you’ve got to give credit to UBC,” Tuchscherer said. “But we’ve got to adjust to that. We knew what UBC was going to do, and we prepped for that this week. You never really know until you get into the game, and once we got into the game, we never adjusted to the type of pressure they were going to apply. That was disappointing to me.”

The Cascades and T-Birds posted identical 9-for-23 performances from beyond the arc, while UFV won the rebounding battle 45-37.

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Women’s Volleyball: Mariners rally past Cascades in PacWest semifinal

The University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team got off to a fantastic start in their PacWest semifinal clash with the Vancouver Island University Mariners, but the No. 2-ranked team in the nation battled back to win in four sets.

Playing at Columbia Bible College, the Cascades staggered the Mariners in the opening set, winning 25-21, and they carried that momentum into the second, building a 13-7 lead. But VIU, which posted a PacWest-leading 20-4 record during the regular season, came roaring back to win 25-23, and they won the next two sets 25-17 and 25-10 to close out the match.

The No. 5-seeded Cascades will face the No. 2 Capilano Blues in the bronze medal game at 1 p.m. on Saturday at CBC, while the No. 1 Mariners move on to face the No. 6 College of the Rockies Avalanche for the PacWest gold medal at 6 p.m.

Afterward, UFV head coach Mike Gilray noted that the end of the second set was the turning point of the match.

“I thought we were the better team for two games tonight, but we weren’t able to finish out the second one,” he said. “We had a pretty comfortable lead, but they started to fight back. We were playing well enough to win the match, but we just could not side out in our rotation.

“I think if we were to have gotten up 2-0, it’s a big hole for them to dig out of. But instead they win, and it’s 1-1 and they’ve got the momentum.”

The Cascades had a hot start, opening an 8-4 lead in the first set behind some strong play from middle Mandelyn Erikson and left side Rachel Funk. The Mariners battled back to even terms, but the Cascades pulled away once again with some timely blocks and digs.

UFV was strong at the net early in the second set to build a six-point lead, but the Mariners clawed their way back and scored the last three points of the set to prevail by the minimum two points.

The third set featured some lengthy rallies, but VIU won the majority of those long points down the stretch to go up 2-1. In the fourth, the Nanaimo squad built a 16-10 lead, then went on a huge game-ending run, highlighted by a series of aces, to punch their ticket to the final and earn one of the PacWest’s two berths to the CCAA national championships.

Afterward, Gilray said he was proud of his team.

“We fought hard – there was no give-up,” he said. “I think they’re feeling a little bummed. They’ve been amazing at having each other’s backs and supporting each other all the way through.

“I think we’ll be ready tomorrow to show that fight again.”

The Cascades performed admirably on defence and at the service line, with Gilray’s statistics showing his team essentially matched its strong performance in those departments from Thursday’s quarter-final win over the Douglas Royals. The difference was, UFV’s hitters weren’t as efficient against VIU – they hit just four per cent as a team, with 35 kills against 30 errors.

“We just couldn’t put kills away,” Gilray noted.

Funk was the Cascades’ player of the game, while Erikson hit a team-high 18 per cent and Kelly Robertson paced the team with 11 kills. Libero Amy Davidson led five players in double figures with 18 digs – the Cascades totalled 84 digs as a team.

– with files from Kyle Donen

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