The University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team delivered a victory for new head coach Mike Gilray in his PacWest regular season debut, outlasting the Columbia Bible Bearcats in five sets on Friday evening.
Playing before a boisterous crowd at Columbia Place, the Cascades quickly took control, winning the first two sets 25-16 and 25-12. The Bearcats settled down, though, and won the next two sets by scores of 25-18 and 25-23 to draw even. But UFV finished strong, prevailing 15-10 in the fifth.
“That was a really big win,” Gilray said afterward. “I knew they (the Bearcats) were going to be just feisty for a win, and (CBC head coach) Duncan (Harrison) does a great job of preparing them.
“For our girls to handle the momentum swings . . . I thought they answered it very well. The fifth game was probably our best. We executed at our highest rate.”
One of the keys to victory for the Cascades was their strong performance at the service line. Fifth-year setter Nicole Blandford led the way in that department, unleashing eight aces.
“It’s definitely one of the best serving games we’ve had as a team, and it helped, for sure,” Gilray said. “Today, probably for the first time – even in practice – we served at 86 or 87 per cent. And we had a 15 per cent ace ratio, which is very high.”
The UFV bench boss also lauded the play of a pair of outside hitters – sophomore Rachel Funk and rookie Chelsea Kidd – on Friday, while noting his team needs to see improvement in its serve receive.
The Cascades renew hostilities with the Bearcats on Saturday, this time at the Envision Athletic Centre. UFV’s volleyball home openers run at 5 p.m. (women) and 7 p.m. (men).
“I’ve coached for a lot of years, and I was pretty nervous coming into today,” said Gilray, reflecting on his first regular season win at the helm of the Cascades. “I’m a coach who likes to be prepared, and not knowing CBC at all kind of took me out of my comfort zone.
“I think I’ll be more comfortable going into tomorrow’s match, because I’ll be able to game-plan a little better.”