The University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team fell just shy of the podium at the PacWest championships, as they were defeated by the Capilano Blues in the conference bronze medal game on Saturday afternoon at Columbia Bible College.
The No. 2-seeded Blues prevailed in three straight sets (25-15, 25-22, 25-19) over the upstart No. 5 Cascades, who had begun their playoff run with an upset win over the No. 4 Douglas Royals on Thursday before falling to the No. 1 VIU Mariners in Friday’s semifinals.
“I’m excited with how we finished, playing three games in the playoffs,” UFV head coach Mike Gilray said afterward. “Every point that we got to play here gives us experience for next season. Being able to get some rookies some playoff experience only helps in the long run. It’ll make us a better team.”
The Cascades got off to a solid start in the first set, but the Blues took over midway through and won handily.
The North Vancouver squad maintained that momentum, building a 20-11 lead in the second set. But the Cascades found some traction at that point behind some tough serving from rookie Chelsea Kidd, who spearheaded a 7-0 run. UFV would cut the deficit to 22-21, with sophomore left side Rachel Funk particularly effective during that stretch, but the Blues scored three of the next four points to clinch the set.
It was a similar story in the third – Capilano raced out to a 19-12 lead before fifth-year setter Nicole Blandford took over at the service line and helped the Cascades reel off a 5-0 run. The Blues’ Kira Sutcliffe answered with a service run of her own, though, and Capilano earned six of the next eight points to close out the match.
Blandford, who was playing the last game of her Cascades career, felt her squad ran out of gas in their third game in three days. The Blues were fresher – they had a bye to the semifinals and were playing just their second game of the week.
“We all really wanted it,” Blandford said. “Our energy was a little bit low – we were coming off two really big games, so I think that definitely played a factor. Our legs were a little tired. We had moments where we pulled it together, and then we just couldn’t all get going in one direction at the same time.
“It was a tough game to go out on, but I think what we did this weekend, we’re really proud of – winning that first game, and having a strong performance against VIU for most of the game.”
Left side Kelly Robertson picked up player of the game honours for UFV after notching a team-high nine kills, and libero Amy Davidson had another outstanding outing with 17 digs in just three sets.
Afterward, first-year bench boss Gilray said he was proud of his team’s improvement from the start of the season to the playoffs.
“With a new coach and new systems, it’s a lot of work,” he noted. “The girls had to make that commitment to maybe get worse to start after learning something new. They were willing to make changes, and I think every single player is going to see that they improved.
“Right now is a tough time to look at your game, after two losses. But I think as we sit back and reflect on the year, we’re going to be excited about the amount of improvement we showed in the year and how competitive we were as a team.”