The University of the Fraser Valley volleyball and wrestling teams take centre stage on the Abbotsford campus this weekend.
The Cascades volleyball squads square off with the College of the Rockies Avalanche in PacWest regular-season action, while the UFV wrestlers host their second annual Canada West tournament, the Cascades Classic.
The UFV basketball teams are on a bye week, and return to action Feb. 5-6 with road games against the UBC Okanagan Heat.
WVB: Cascades aim to maintain momentum vs. Avalanche
Cascades (7-9, fifth in PacWest) vs. College of the Rockies Avalanche (6-10, sixth in PacWest)
Saturday 6 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m., Student Activity Centre
The Cascades’ last game action was on Jan. 16, when they earned their most impressive victory of the season – a five-set road triumph over the Vancouver Island University Mariners, ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time.
Coming off a bye week, head coach Mike Gilray is hoping his charges can recapture some of that magic against COTR.
“It was a great win,” Gilray said, reflecting on his team’s breakthrough performance against VIU. “But the break was good. It was well-timed, because we had a few girls who were sick. We’ve had a competitive week of practice, but also the opportunity to rest some athletes.”
The Cascades and Avalanche are neck-and-neck in the race for playoff berths and seeding, which makes this weekend’s games absolutely pivotal for both teams.
“They rely heavily on one of their left sides (Kelsey Thompson), but what I’ve seen from them on video the last two weeks, they’ve been playing really well-rounded volleyball,” Gilray said. “They’re definitely playing some of their best volleyball.”
Key Cascade: Fifth-year setter Nicole Blandford was the PacWest’s female volleyball athlete of the week last week, after a sensational performance (eight aces, 44 assists, 10 digs) in the upset win over VIU. She has a well-earned reputation as one of the conference’s toughest servers, ranking eighth in aces per set (0.50).
Key Avalanche: Kelsey Thompson, a fifth-year outside hitter, is one of the PacWest’s dominant attackers. She ranks fifth in the league in total offence (3.39 points per set), and sits third in kills (3.09 per set).
MVB: Cascades look to get back on track
Cascades (8-8, fourth in PacWest) vs. College of the Rockies Avalanche (7-9, fifth in PacWest)
Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m., Student Activity Centre
It’s been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster of late for the Cascades men. Back on Jan. 9, they authored a landmark five-set win over the undefeated, defending national champion Camosun Chargers. But the following weekend, they were on the wrong end of a two-game sweep against VIU.
Now, coming off a bye week, head coach Kyle Donen’s crew has a chance to recapture its momentum playing at home, where they’ve gone 6-1 in conference play this season.
“I think the rest was good for us,” Donen said. “We got a chance to reset and re-evaluate things, which is good. The game against Camosun brought us up to a level we hadn’t played at this year, but at the same time, it’s not a bad thing to be leveled out, you could say, with a tough loss the next weekend. We’re feeling good, and understanding what we’re capable of.”
If the PacWest playoffs started today, UFV and COTR would be quarter-final opponents. That adds a bit of intrigue to this weekend’s games.
“They’ve got weapons in different spots on their team, and we’ve got to be ready for everything they throw at us this weekend,” Donen said. “We’ve got to know in our heads, too, that they could potentially be our playoff match-up. We need to be sure we learn something from them, as a team we could play down the road.”
Key Cascade: Fifth-year outside hitter Adam Chaplin is one of the PacWest’s most dynamic offensive players. The Mission, B.C. product is second in the PacWest in aces (0.60 per set), and ranks seventh and eighth, respectively, in total offence (3.67 points per set) and kills (2.89 per set).
Key Avalanche: Australian outside hitter Patrik Toze keys the COTR offence – he’s fifth in the PacWest in both kills (3.04 per set) and total offence (3.86 points per set).
Wrestling: Cascades hit the mats at home
Cascades Classic: Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Envision Athletic Centre
Sunday’s Cascades Classic marks an exciting opportunity for UFV’s wrestlers to compete in front of their home fans.
The event will feature the five other Canada West programs – the Calgary Dinos, Alberta Golden Bears and Pandas, Regina Cougars, Saskatchewan Huskies, and Winnipeg Wesmen. And because it’s an open tournament, the NCAA Div. 2 Simon Fraser Clan will also be participating, along with several top high school wrestlers.
Cascades varsity wrestlers in the field include Devin Purewal (men’s 72 kg) and Pravi Dhaliwal (women’s 59 kg), while Aman Kaler (men’s 65 kg) and Brad Hildenbrandt (men’s heavyweight) will compete on behalf of the UFV non-varsity club team.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to show the campus off, and we’re excited to compete at home,” Cascades co-head coach Raj Virdi said.
Both UFV varsity wrestlers, Purewal and Dhaliwal, figure to be in the mix for medals on Sunday. Purewal won silver at the 2015 Canada West championships, and earned a bronze medal at the Dinos Invitational in late October.