The University of the Fraser Valley men’s volleyball team very nearly authored a storybook start to 2015, but they ended up falling in an epic five-setter on the road to the Douglas Royals.
The Cascades, No. 15 in the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) rankings, had earned an upset win at home over the CCAA No. 2 Royals back on Nov. 14, and they got off on the right foot on Friday in New Westminster, winning the first set 25-20.
The Royals battled back to win the next two sets in decisive fashion, 25-18 and 25-15, but UFV clawed out a 26-24 triumph in the fourth to force a fifth and deciding set.
Douglas (11-2) built an early lead and cruised to a 15-8 win to close things out, but it was nevertheless a solid performance for the Cascades to open the second semester.
“I thought we came out pretty strong,” noted head coach Kyle Donen, whose team sits fourth in the PacWest at 6-7. “After we won the first set, we let a couple runs deflate us in the second set, and it took us a while to get our heads back up. They put a lot of pressure on us, and we weren’t able to be as aggressive as we wanted to be.
“But it was a good start to the second half, and I think we’ll be ready and better tomorrow.”
The Cascades and Royals clash again on Saturday in New West (8 p.m. start, live webcast at sportscanada.tv).
Joel Kleingeltink (13 kills) and Josh Togeretz (11 kills) led the way offensively for UFV, while middles Robert Koenig (nine kills) and Connor Nickel (seven kills) were efficient with their opportunities. Adam Chaplin chipped in with four aces, while rookie Isaiah Dahl made his debut and had a couple of great digs to spark the Cascades to victory in the fourth set.
“We got off to a really slow start (in the fifth set) – we didn’t get a good pass or two at the beginning,” Donen said. “For whatever reason, we couldn’t climb out of the hole we dug. I don’t worry too much about that set – I was more impressed with how we fought to force that fifth set. We just need to do a better job of rebounding when we get a slow start.”