The University of the Fraser Valley basketball and volleyball teams are set to close the book on their regular-season campaigns this weekend, and playoffs are just around the corner.
The Cascades volleyballers wrap up their PacWest conference schedule in style, with a home-and-home series against their crosstown rivals, the Columbia Bible College Bearcats.
The UFV basketball teams, meanwhile, are bound for Calgary, where they’ll face the Mount Royals in their Canada West conference-play finales.
MVB: Cascades have a shot at third place
Cascades (12-10, 4th in PacWest) vs. Columbia Bible College Bearcats (2-20, 7th in PacWest)
Thursday 8 p.m., Columbia Place; Friday 8 p.m., Envision Athletic Centre
Going into the final weekend, the Cascades (12-10) have a chance to overhaul the Vancouver Island University Mariners (13-9) for third place in the PacWest. The Mariners wrap up the regular season with a pair of games against the Camosun Chargers.
UFV head coach Kyle Donen isn’t terribly concerned about his team’s seeding – in any event, the Cascades will be playing a quarter-final match to open the PacWest championships. More importantly, he wants his team to use this Thursday’s match to get familiar with Columbia Place, the host site for the championship tournament (Feb. 25-27).
“We’re definitely taking that opportunity to get comfortable there,” Donen said. “We just need to focus on playing the game and working to get better. We didn’t have a great weekend against Douglas last weekend, and we want to get better against CBC. That’s the most important thing for us going into playoffs.”
Key Cascade: We’ll give you three for the price of one. Outside hitters Adam Chaplin and Robert Bauerfind and middle Connor Nickel are nearing the end of their fifth and final seasons of eligibility, and Friday will mark the trio’s final home game. They’ll be honoured in a pregame Senior Night ceremony.
Key Bearcat: Rookie left side Ryan Newman is CBC’s most dangerous attacker. He leads his team – and ranks No. 9 in the PacWest – in total offence, averaging 3.38 points per set, and he’s sixth in the conference in aces (0.42 per set).
WVB: Cascades look to snap four-game losing streak
Cascades (9-13, 5th in PacWest) vs. Columbia Bible College Bearcats (4-18, 7th in PacWest)
Thursday 6 p.m., Columbia Place; Friday 6 p.m., Envision Athletic Centre
The Cascades’ and Bearcats’ playoff fates have already been determined – UFV is locked into the fifth seed for the conference tournament, while the seventh-place Bearcats have been eliminated from post-season contention.
The situation allows Cascades head coach Mike Gilray the luxury of resting some of his players who are nursing nagging injuries. But at the same time, Gilray believes it’s important to build momentum for the playoffs, and motivating his crew shouldn’t be difficult against their crosstown rivals.
“I respect this rivalry,” Gilray said. “I respect what (CBC head coach) Duncan (Harrison) does with his program . . . and I want to battle them. I want to go into the playoffs playing our style of volleyball, and I think we’ve gotten away from that the last few weekends.”
Season series: The Cascades won a pair of hard-fought games vs. the Bearcats to open the regular season – a five-setter at CBC on Oct. 17, and a four-setter at the Envision Athletic Centre on Oct. 18.
Key Cascade: Nicole Blandford is the Cascades’ lone fifth-year player, and she’ll be honoured in Senior Night ceremonies on Friday. She has a well-earned reputation as one of the most dangerous servers in the PacWest – she’s fourth in the league in aces (0.57 per set).
Key Bearcat: Becky Garner, a first-year outside hitter, paces the Bearcats in total offence (2.80 points per set, 10th in PacWest) and kills (2.41 per set, ninth).
MBB: Cascades aim to maintain momentum
Cascades (12-6, 2nd in Explorer Division) vs. Mount Royal Cougars (8-10, T-4th in Explorer Division)
Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 7 p.m. Mountain time, Mount Royal University (Calgary)
The Cascades have locked up second place in the Explorer Division, and the first-round playoff bye that comes with it. But their opponent this weekend, the Mount Royal Cougars, finds itself in a more desperate situation, standings-wise. They’re tied for fourth place with the UBC Okanagan Heat (8-10), one game back of the MacEwan Griffins (9-9) for the final Explorer playoff berth.
“We’ve got to compete,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen said. “They do a tremendous job battling all over the floor, and they’ve out-competed us at times the last couple seasons. It’s always a challenge playing against them.
“We want to go into this weekend and stay sharp and keep our rhythm going (into playoffs).”
Season series: The Cascades and Cougars split a two-game set in Abbotsford to open the second semester. UFV won the opener 89-75 on Jan. 8, but MRU bounced back the next night, winning 86-71 in overtime.
Key Cascade: Kevon Parchment is this week’s Canada West male third star across all sports, after averaging 26.5 points per game in a homecourt sweep of the first-place Thompson Rivers WolfPack last weekend. He’s among the conference leaders in scoring (18.3 points per game, sixth), rebounding (9.6, fifth), assists (5.2, second), blocks (1.3, seventh) and steals (1.8, 11th).
Key Cougar: Brett Layton, Mount Royal’s 6’8” centre, is having an outstanding freshman campaign. He leads his team in scoring (16.7 points per game), and leads Canada West in rebounding (10.7 per game).
WBB: One more win punches Cascades’ playoff ticket
Cascades (11-7, 3rd in Explorer Division) vs. Mount Royal Cougars (2-16, 6th in Explorer Division)
Friday 6 p.m., Saturday 5 p.m. Mountain time, Mount Royal University (Calgary)
A four-game win streak has transformed the Cascades’ playoff outlook. They head into the final weekend of the regular season requiring just one win to lock up the third and final post-season berth in the Explorer Division. If they’re able to accomplish that, they’d host a first-round playoff series the following weekend.
“I think we’ve had a really good focus at the defensive end of the floor,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said, analyzing his team’s hot play. “We’ve built our confidence around that, and it feels like that’s brought everything onto the same page the last couple of weeks. This weekend, we’re looking to clinch a playoff berth and finish strong moving forward into the playoffs.”
Key Cascade: For the first time since early in the first semester, Kayli Sartori is not leading Canada West in scoring. The fourth-year guard/forward is currently averaging 18.2 points per game, but was leapfrogged by Megan Wood of the MacEwan Griffins (18.7ppg) last Saturday. Sartori is nevertheless having a fantastic season, highlighted by averages of 7.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.4 blocks and 2.4 steals.
Key Cougar: MRU’s 6’2” sophomore forward Melissa Moore is tied for the team lead in scoring (9.1 points per game) and averages 6.1 boards per game.