Weekend preview: Soccer teams open playoffs, rowers to nationals, volleyballers at home

WSOC playoffs Insta Oct31-15In light of the success the University of the Fraser Valley women’s soccer team has had over the past five years – Canada West gold and silver medals, two trips to CIS nationals, and a national bronze medal are the highlights – it’s surprising that they’ve never once played host to a conference playoff game.

They’ll taste home field advantage in the Canada West postseason for the first time on Saturday, as they host the Victoria Vikes in the first round of the Canada West playoffs. Kickoff is at 4 p.m. at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.

Based on head-to-head results earlier this season, the Cascades (8-4-2, 26 points, third in the West Division) and the Vikes (7-3-4, 25 points, fourth in the West) appear evenly matched. The two teams battled to a scoreless draw at Abby Senior on Sept. 11 to open the Canada West schedule, and they wrapped up the regular season with a 2-2 tie at UVic last Saturday.

“They were very different games,” Cascades head coach Rob Giesbrecht recalled. “The first game, there wasn’t a lot in it – not a lot of chances. Whereas the game on Saturday, it could have ended 5-5 or 5-3, one way or another. It was very loose, and we took turns going at each other. I think this playoff game will be somewhere in between.

“You know it’s going to be a tight game. We know we’re playing a very good team, a very motivated team, a very well-organized team. They’re dangerous, and we know we have to be at our best.”

The Cascades will be looking for production on Saturday from sophomore striker Monika Levarsky, who finished third in Canada West with seven goals, and her fifth-year counterpart Shelby Beck, who led the conference with nine assists and chipped in with two goals. Rookies Gurneet Dhaliwal (six goals, four assists) and Brittney Zacharuk (five goals, five assists) tied for eighth in Canada West with 10 points apiece.

At the other end of the pitch, the Cascades’ veteran backline of Dayle Jeras, Jade Palm and Tristan Corneil provides stout defending in front of standout keeper Kayla Klim.

Fifth-year forward Emma Greig – one of Canada West’s top goal-scorers over the course of her career – spearheads the Vikes’ attack. She posted three goals and five assists this season, and gets offensive support from the likes of Stephanie Badilla Gutierrez (four goals, four assists) and Kiara Kilbey (six goals, one assist). Keeper Meaghan Storie, a second team conference all-star in 2014, tied for fourth in shutouts this season with five.

MSOC: Cascades open playoffs on the road vs. Alberta

The UFV men’s soccer team hits the road for its first-round playoff game – they take on the Alberta Golden Bears on Saturday at 2 p.m. Mountain time (1 p.m. Pacific) in Edmonton. The game will be webcast at ufv.canadawest.tv (pay per view).

The Cascades, making their third consecutive Canada West postseason appearance, can return to the conference Final Four for the first time since 2013 with a victory.

“Playoffs are a whole different ballgame,” noted UFV head coach Tom Lowndes, whose squad finished third in the Pacific Division with a 5-4-3 record. “It’s a different mentality, being one game away from being done. It changes your team, and we’re hungry for it.

“I like the attitude in our group and the mentality to get the job done, whether it’s home or away.”

Midfielder Kree Byrne (three goals, three assists) and striker James Najman (two goals, four assists) were the Cascades’ co-leaders with six points apiece during the regular season, while defender Colton O’Neill – a Canada West first team all-star in 2014 – racked up four goals and an assist. Keeper Alex Skrzeta’s three shutouts tied for third in the conference.

They’ll be taking on an high-octane Alberta squad which led the conference in goals with 34. Mohamed Teliani (eight goals, four assists), Niko Saler (eight goals, two assists), Tolu Esan (six goals, three assists) and Shamit Shome (six goals, one assist) did much of the damage for the Golden Bears.

“We’re going to have to be tight and organized defensively,” Lowndes acknowledged. “I thought we did a good job on Saturday against UBC (a 1-1 draw) of being compact and not letting them play through us. We’ll be preparing and working on that this week in training.

“It’s nice, in a way, to play a team that we haven’t played all year. It’s new, it’s exciting, and the fact it’s in the playoffs makes it even more special. It’ll be a good challenge for us.”

Cascades rowers Kyle Krahn and Stephen Wall will be competing at university nationals this weekend. (Boro Kasic photo)

Cascades rowers Kyle Krahn and Stephen Wall will be competing at university nationals this weekend. (Boro Kasic photo)

Rowing: Cascades off to nationals in Nova Scotia

The Canadian University Rowing Championships, hosted by St. Francis Xavier University, run Saturday and Sunday in Antigonish, N.S., and the UFV rowing program is sending five athletes.

The Cascades’ representatives will be Stephen Wall and Kyle Krahn (men’s pair), Arden Holmes and Emily Klootwyk (lightweight women’s double) and Brad Jones (open men’s single). Holmes will also compete in the lightweight women’s single.

Head coach Liz Chisholm noted that this is the Cascades’ biggest event of the fall season.

“The competition is definitely at a very high level,” she said. “As far as Rowing Canada is concerned, this is an elite event. National coaches show up . . . because there’s a direct link between university athletes and the world stage.”

Chisholm pegged the Krahn-Wall duo – which competed at last year’s RBC National Rowing Championships – as having the best chance to advance an ‘A’ final on Sunday.

“They certainly are that calibre of athletes, and they’re experienced going into it,” she said.

WVB: Mariners present a stiff test for Cascades

The UFV women’s volleyball team (2-2) takes on the Vancouver Island University Mariners (0-2) this weekend at home, with matches going at 6 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Envision Athletic Centre.

The Mariners come into this weekend without a win, but don’t be fooled – they’re a perennial PacWest powerhouse and the defending conference champions, and their two losses came against last year’s national bronze medalists, the Camosun Chargers.

“These are big matches,” Cascades head coach Mike Gilray said. “They’re coming off a bye week, and they got swept in their first weekend against Camosun. They’re going to be itching for their first win. When we played them in the preseason, they were running the fastest offensive system I’ve seen in PacWest. We’ve got to be on our game.”

Middle Monique Huber (2.69 points per set) and outside hitter Rachel Funk (2.13 points per set) are leading the Cascades in total offence this season, ranking 11th and 15th in the PacWest, respectively. Tylar Turnbull has been the Mariners’ most dangerous attacker, averaging 3.0 points per set of total offence to rank seventh in the conference.

MVB: Cascades look to get back on winning track vs. VIU

On the men’s volleyball scene, the Cascades (2-2) host the Mariners (0-2) at 8 p.m. on Friday and 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Envision Athletic Centre.

“I know they’ve got some new additions this year,” said Cascades head coach Kyle Donen, whose team dropped a pair of road games last weekend vs. the Douglas Royals. “I don’t know if we’ll worry too much about what they’re going to do this week – I think we need to focus on ourselves. I know we’ll be ready for a bounce-back opportunity, and no better place to do it than at home.”

Among the Cascades standouts early in the season are fifth-year outside hitter Adam Chaplin (3.0 points per set of total offence, 11th in the PacWest) and sophomore libero and current conference men’s volleyball athlete of the week Isaiah Dahl (4.50 digs per set, fourth in the PacWest). Zach Grigg (4.57 points per set) and Jesse Bazergui (4.43 points per set) have been leading the way for the Mariners, ranking second and third, respectively, in the conference in total offence.

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