Weekend preview: Cascades soccer, men’s basketball teams take on rival Spartans

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Colton O’Neill, Nate Brown and Tristan Corneil (from left) will be key players for their teams this week against Trinity Western.

It’s rivalry week for the University of the Fraser Valley athletic department, as three Cascades teams take on the Trinity Western Spartans.

The Cascades’ local rivals from Langley are the opponent for a home-and-home soccer clash which runs Friday at Abbotsford Senior Secondary (women 5 p.m., men 7:30 p.m.) and next Tuesday back at Trinity Western’s Rogers Field (women 5 p.m., men 7:15 p.m.). Given how close UFV and TWU are in the Canada West regular season standings on both the men’s and women’s sides, it’s clear these are huge games with significant playoff implications.

The Cascades men’s basketball team also takes on the Spartans in preseason action, in a home-and-home set of their own – Friday at the Langley Events Centre (7 p.m. tip-off) and Saturday at UFV’s Envision Athletic Centre (6 p.m.).

The UFV women’s hoopsters are on the road this week for the Cougar Classic preseason tournament at the University of Regina. They take on the Saskatchewan Huskies on Thursday (6 p.m. Central time), the host Regina Cougars on Friday (7 p.m.) and the Guelph Gryphons on Saturday (10 a.m.).

WSOC: Rematch of the Canada West final

The last time the Cascades and Spartans women’s soccer programs faced off was in the 2014 Canada West final, where TWU edged UFV 2-1. Both teams would go on to make the Final Four at CIS nationals in Quebec City – the Spartans winning the silver medal, and the Cascades finishing fourth.

This season, the two programs are jockeying for Canada West playoff positioning. The CIS No. 6-ranked Cascades are in second place in the West Division with a 6-1-1 record for 19 points, while the Spartans (5-1-2, 17 points) are fourth. UFV and TWU both appear to be locks to make the playoffs – the top six teams in the West Division qualify – but they’re fighting for a higher seeding and the right to host a playoff game.

“There’s six massive points up for grabs in these games with a team we’re close to in the standings,” Cascades head coach Rob Giesbrecht noted. “But it’s so much more than that. It’s a rival, it’s a derby match, it’s home and home. It’s going to be fun, and we’re going to be tested.

“We want to take these two games one at a time and make sure we don’t get too wrapped up in the emotion of a derby match.”

Trinity Western’s offensive leaders include the likes of rookie midfielder/forward Rachel Hutchinson (four goals), fifth-year midfielder Vanessa Kovacs (three goals) and sophomore forward Seina Kashmina, who is tied with UFV’s Shelby Beck for the Canada West lead in assists with five. Cascades first-year midfielder/forward Gurneet Dhaliwal (five goals, three assists) is tied for second in the conference in goals and for first for total points, while sophomore striker Monika Levarsky (four goals) is tied for fifth in goals.

MSOC: Battling for playoff position

It’s much the same story on the men’s side, where the Cascades (4-3-1, 13 points) sit third in the Pacific Division with the Spartans (3-2-1, 10 points) right behind them in fourth, with two games in hand.

“Local rivalries are always big – I know we enjoy playing them, and they enjoy playing us,” Cascades head coach Tom Lowndes said. “It’s a big game that we look forward to on the calendar. This season, it’s even more special and more important because of the standings and how important it is. It’s really important that we get off to a good start Friday night. When you play teams (multiple times) in a very short period, psychologically, getting a result in that first game is huge.

“It’s going to very much have a Cup final feel to it, because it is that important.”

As if the rivalry and playoff stakes aren’t enough, Friday marks the final home game for Cascades fifth-year captain Colton O’Neill. The Abbotsford-born right back has fashioned a memorable and much-decorated career at UFV, leading the team to the Canada West bronze medal in 2013 and being named a first team conference all-star in 2014. He’ll be honoured in a pregame ceremony on Friday.

O’Neill’s three goals on the season pace the Cascades, while midfielders Kree Byrne and Connor MacMillan have scored two apiece. The Spartans counter with the likes of fifth-year striker Jarvis Ambaka (two goals, one assist) and second-year midfielder Elijah Adekugbe (one goal, one assist).

MBB: Only games this season between Cascades and Spartans

This weekend’s games between the UFV and TWU men’s basketball teams mark the only times the two programs will face off this season. The Cascades and Spartans don’t meet in the regular season because the Explorer Division (where UFV plays) and Pioneer Division (TWU) don’t have interlocking schedules. There’s a new Canada West basketball format on the way for 2016-17, though, which features a single division – and annual games between the Cascades and Spartans.

“Having the two Valley schools playing each other is always fun for the players involved, and the community,” UFV head coach Adam Friesen said. “From the preseason perspective, we’re focused on ourselves. We want to continue to build our identity – we’re hoping to be strong on defence, and creating a high pace of play.”

Admission for Saturday’s game at the Envision Athletic Centre will be by donation of a non-perishable food item for the Abbotsford Food Bank. It’s part of the Cascades vs. Hunger initiative going on this month (see below).

WBB: Tremendous preseason tests for Cascades

This week’s Cougar Classic in Regina represents a valuable opportunity for head coach Al Tuchscherer’s charges to measure their progress against two of Canada West’s traditional powerhouses in Saskatchewan and Regina, and one of Ontario’s up-and-coming programs in Guelph.

“It’s a great opportunity to play some of the premier programs in the country,” Tuchscherer said. “We’ll obviously get a chance to see how we’ve improved over the past few weeks in practice. We’ve made some adjustments for our lack of size, so we’ll see how that works against some bigger teams.”

Cascades vs. Hunger

Throughout the month of October, the UFV athletic department is collecting food for the Abbotsford Food Bank as part of the Cascades vs. Hunger initiative.

Not only will this Saturday’s men’s basketball game vs. Trinity Western feature admission by non-perishable food donation, there will also be donation bins set up at upcoming UFV soccer and volleyball games.

Then, on Oct. 28, the Cascades will be participating in their annual ‘Walk and Knock’ event. It’s a Cascades Halloween week tradition where athletes go door-to-door in Abbotsford to solicit food bank donations.

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Indigenizing at UFV

The University of the Fraser Valley is situated on the unceded traditional territory of the Stó:lō peoples. The Stó:lō have an intrinsic relationship with what they refer to as S’olh Temexw (Our Sacred Land); therefore, we express our gratitude and respect for the honour of living and working in this territory.

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