Beating the Douglas Royals men’s volleyball team under any circumstances is an impressive feat.
But given the injury-riddled state of the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades’ roster, Friday night’s epic five-set triumph over the previously undefeated, No. 2-ranked team in the nation was perhaps even more meaningful.
Last Saturday, starting setter Ryan Thain had suffered a broken finger during a victory over the Capilano Blues, and while he gutted it out and finished that game, he was sidelined against the Royals. Likewise, left sides Kurtis Stromdahl and Nick Bruce were unavailable due to injury.
The Cascades’ offence was seemingly weakened even further because Adam Chaplin moved over to the setter spot in Thain’s absence – he’s usually one of the team’s most productive outside hitters.
But UFV (6-3) managed to dig deep and put together an emotional victory over the Royals (6-1).
The two teams clash once again on Saturday (6 p.m. at UFV’s Student Activity Centre North Gym).
“We found a way, and it’s a huge win for us,” enthused Cascades head coach Kyle Donen.
“It’s a character win, especially with what we put on the floor today. We had quite a few injuries, so we didn’t even know what our lineup was going to be going into the game.
“Again, our serving was kind of the catalyst for us in our home gym, and the energy in this smaller gym seemed to propel us to victory at the end.”
The Royals lived up to their advance billing in the first set, pounding the Cascades 25-12. But UFV, ranked No. 15 in the nation, bounced back to take the next two 25-18 and 25-23. Douglas won the fourth set, but the Cascades raced out to a 9-4 lead in the fifth and finished things off by a 15-10 score in front of a raucous home crowd.
Right side Joel Kleingeltink hammered down a team-leading 15 kills and added four aces, while Robert Bauerfind notched nine kills and Josh Togeretz stuffed the stat sheet with eight kills, seven digs and four aces. Connor Nickel chipped in with seven kills and three blocks.
Donen lauded the play of pinch-hit setter Chaplin.
“He’s set in the past, so he knows what he’s doing in that zone,” Donen said. “But he did a good job, and the guys stepped into the roles and played well.
“I thought Robert Bauerfind, even though he started a little slow, he found his groove and really earned some important points for us down the stretch and from the service line. It was a group effort tonight, and we knew that had to be the case.”