Women’s Volleyball: Blues battle back, edge Cascades in five sets in PACWEST quarter-final

Cranbrook – The University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team saw its season come to an end in heartbreaking fashion on Thursday afternoon, as the Capilano Blues rallied for a five-set victory in the PACWEST quarter-finals.

In the opening game of the conference championship tournament, hosted by College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, B.C., the No. 4-seeded Cascades appeared to be in complete control, winning the first two sets by scores of 25-16 and 25-20.

But the No. 5 seed Blues battled all the way back – they won the third and fourth sets by matching 25-21 scores, and in the fifth, they fended off three UFV match points to earn an 18-16 triumph and punch their ticket to the PACWEST semifinals.

“We just didn’t execute when we had game point on the line,” Cascades head coach Mike Gilray said afterward. “It’s a tough loss, and it’s going to sting for a while.”

The Cascades were elevated in the early going by the return of Amanda Matsui – the sophomore left side, named a PACWEST first team all-star on Wednesday, had missed UFV’s previous seven games with an ankle injury. She had three kills and an ace as the Cascades won the first set with ease.

The second set was one of huge momentum swings, and UFV right side Keira Fisher was the best player on the court. Down 9-6 early, Fisher went on a six-point service run to stake her squad to a 13-9 lead. The Blues rallied to claim a 15-14 advantage, but Fisher had three kills down the stretch as the Cascades pulled away.

UFV was poised to end the match in the minimum three sets, leading 21-19 in the third after a Hanna Hieltjes kill. But Capilano came charging back, scoring the next six points behind Isabela Lima’s serves to extend the match.

The Blues came up clutch late in the fourth, as the last three points went their way, capped by a Zoe Mydansky kill.

Cascades middles Hieltjes and Alysha Cooper were hot in the fifth set, helping UFV build a 14-11 lead and move to the brink of victory. But the Blues staved off three match points, with a Cascades service error followed by a pair of Meghan Koven kills. They would go on to seal an 18-16 win after Kelsey Towers’s tip fell between a trio of diving Cascades.

“I thought we were playing well in the first two, but Cap wasn’t playing their best,” Gilray said. “No real changes to our game plan – when we were sticking to that, we did well. We just made a few mental mistakes. But even with those, we gave ourselves a chance to win against a good team. We just didn’t execute when we needed to.

“I thought we stole the momentum back in the fifth set, and that’s tough to do. Props to them. At 14-11 with Kimbo (Bauder) going off hands for the kill, it felt like we were in control.

“Our passing seemed to lapse there a little bit, and we didn’t execute.”

Matsui paced the Cascades with 16 kills, and Cooper was dynamite in the middle, racking up 13 kills on 18 swings for a .667 hitting percentage. Fisher (12 kills) was named UFV’s player of the game, and Bauder also hit double digits with 11 kills.

Bauder, Matsui and Cassidy King racked up astronomical dig totals – the two left sides posting 23 apiece, and libero King with 22. Setter Kara Williams had 46 set assists, and Fisher, Bauder and Matsui each had two aces.

Koven (16 kills) and Lima (13 kills) led the Blues’ attack, and Kelsey Towers had 37 assists.

The result marked the end of Bauder, Fisher and Hieltjes’s tenure with the UFV program; Bauder has exhausted all five years of eligibility, while Fisher and Hieltjes are moving on to other endeavors.

“It’s been a great group of girls to coach,” Gilray said.

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