Cascades earn four-set win over Avalanche

Coming off a bye week, the University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team showed some signs of rust in the early going of Saturday’s game against the College of the Rockies Avalanche.

But the Cascades were able to finish sets strong, en route to a four-set triumph (25-21, 19-25, 25-17, 25-20) at UFV’s Student Activity Centre North Gym.

UFV (8-9, fourth in the PacWest) and COTR (7-12, sixth place) clash again on Sunday (11 a.m., Student Activity Centre).

“We try to base all of our games on our standard, and I felt like we were below our standard in our passing and serving,” Cascades head coach Mike Gilray analyzed. “We had to have different people step up and play well tonight, and Kara Williams stepped up and took that on. She had a great blocking game, slowing down their outsides, and offensively she hit at a high standard.”

Second-year middle Mandelyn Erikson returned from injury to spark the Cascades on Saturday.

Second-year middle Mandelyn Erikson returned from injury to spark the Cascades on Saturday.

Williams, the Cascades’ rookie right side, hit 35 per cent on her way to 11 kills and 13 total offensive points, and was a strong defensive presence at the net.

Left sides Kelly Robertson (16 kills, 18 total points) and Rachel Funk (15 total points) also came up big for the hosts, while libero Amy Davidson racked up 24 digs and setter Nicole Blandford posted four aces.

Blandford’s serving was the common denominator in many pivotal moments of the game. She served the last four points of the first set, and after UFV dropped the second, she staked her team to a 6-0 lead in the third. The Cascades would push the advantage as high as nine points, and cruised from there. In the fourth set, Blandford helped close out the game with a four-point run with her team inside of 20 points.

“Nicole was able to have her best serves inside 20, and I think that’s what great players do,” Gilray noted.

The development of rookies like Williams has been critical for the youthful Cascades this season.

“It has been a totally different experience,” Williams said, reflecting on her first season in the PacWest. “But I feel like as the team grows, it’s easier for me to grow with them. They’re always encouraging me, I encourage them, and we go forwards together.

“Especially today, it felt like I played free.”

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