The University of the Fraser Valley basketball teams tip off the Canada West regular season at home this weekend, taking on the Saskatchewan Huskies on Friday (women 6 p.m., men 8 p.m.) and Saturday (women 5 p.m., men 7 p.m.) at the Envision Athletic Centre.
Tickets are $7 for adults and $3 for students, seniors and UFV staff/faculty/alumni. UFV students and children age six and under are admitted free.
To celebrate opening weekend, school-aged students wearing their basketball jerseys (either from a school team or a club program) will be admitted free.
With the Canada West campaign fast approaching, we take a closer look at the Cascades women’s basketball program.
2015-16 Canada West season in review
Regular season record: 13-7, 3rd Explorer Division
Post-season record: 0-2, lost in first round of CW playoffs
Offence: 67.9 points per game, 8th in CW
Defence: 60.4 points allowed per game, 6th in CW
Awards: Kayli Sartori – Canada West first team all-star, CIS second team All-Canadian
Taylor Claggett – Canada West all-rookie team
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The Cascades women’s basketball team has a new-look roster, but among the constants is one of the best players in the nation: fifth-year guard/forward Kayli Sartori.
The Chilliwack, B.C. standout is coming off an incredible 2015-16 season which saw her win the Canada West scoring title (18.4 points per game) while finishing no lower than 11th in the conference in rebounding, assists, blocks and steals. For her efforts, she was named a Canada West first team all-star and a CIS second team All-Canadian.
“I know Kayli’s hungry to have a good season,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said, reflecting on Sartori approaching her final year of eligibility. “She wants to leave her mark on this team – she knows we have a bunch of young kids and she wants to positively impact them and set them up for future success.”
Indeed, the Cascades have a core of veterans alongside Sartori, but the 2016-17 edition of the squad is laden with youth. Six players – half the roster – are in their first year of eligibility, with local recruits including forward Jessica Zawada (Richmond-R.A. McMath) and guards Victoria Jacobse and Amanda Thompson (both out of Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Secondary) working their way into the rotation in the preseason.
Providing additional veteran seasoning to that group will be returnees Taylor Claggett, Shayna Litman and Sydney Williams, and newcomer Sara Simovic.
Claggett, a 5’11” forward from Mission, B.C. is coming off a tremendous rookie season – she averaged 11.7 points per game and finishing seventh in the conference with 8.7 rebounds per game, en route to Canada West all-rookie honours. Litman, a fourth-year power forward from Coquitlam, B.C., sat out last season after knee surgery, but she’s had a fantastic preseason, averaging 15.2 points per game. Williams is a gritty defender and a high-volume three-point shooter who was fifth in Canada West with 47 threes made last season.
Simovic, meanwhile, joins the Cascades for her fourth year of eligibility after previous stints with the Lethbridge Pronghorns and the VIU Mariners. The combo guard from Nanaimo, B.C. was a Canada West all-rookie teamer in 2013-14 with Lethbridge, and can challenge defences with her shooting and penetrating.
“It’s a season where there’s a lot of unknowns . . . and I don’t think the exhibition season answered a lot of those questions,” Tuchscherer said. “I’d like to think we’re a team that can be tough to play against every night, and if you don’t come prepared to play us, you’re not going to be successful.”
To get his younger players acclimatized to the level of competition they’ll be facing this year, Tuchscherer put together a very tough preseason schedule. The Cascades faced a gauntlet of powerhouse programs, including three of the top 10 in the initial U Sports national rankings of the season (No. 1 Regina, No. 2 Carleton and No. 7 Ryerson).
Playing that schedule will serve the Cascades well this weekend, as they aren’t easing into the Canada West regular season by any means. The Saskatchewan Huskies are the reigning national champions, and despite some personnel changes, they’re No. 9 in the U Sports national rankings to begin 2016-17.
“Saskatchewan is arguably the premier program in the country, and they’re the defending national champions,” Tuchscherer noted. “They’ve had a lot of turnover, but they have a fantastic group of young kids that are really ready to make their mark on their program. For us, it’s just continuing our evolution as we transition from our exhibition schedule to conference play. We’re still trying to get better every game.”
All Cascades regular-season basketball games, both at home and on the road, can be viewed online at ufv.canadawest.tv.