Cascades push top-ranked Mariners to the limit, fall in five sets

The University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team staged an epic rally on Friday evening against the top-ranked team in the nation, but the Vancouver Island University Mariners fended them off in the fifth set at the Envision Athletic Centre.

The Mariners, first place in the PACWEST and holding the coveted Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) No. 1 ranking, handled the first two sets by scores of 25-19 and 25-20. But the Cascades dug deep, winning the next two 25-21 and 25-22 to force one more set for all the marbles.

The fifth was a microcosm of the game as a whole – VIU built a foreboding 13-6 lead before the Cascades went on a four-point run to get to within 13-10. The Mariners, though, took two of the next three points to seal the victory.

The Cascades (7-12, fifth in PACWEST) and Mariners (14-3, first place) lock horns again on Saturday afternoon (1 p.m., Envision Athletic Centre North Gym).

“Our girls fight – they have great response and they battle, and that’s awesome to see,” UFV head coach Mike Gilray acknowledged. “But we’re waiting too long. We have to be able to compete with the best teams in the league for full matches, and you can’t have 10-point lapses in a game. If you do that against a team of this calibre, they win enough points that they’ll separate from you and are able to finish the games off.”

The Cascades had big games from left side Rachel Funk and right side Kim Bauder, who tied for team-high honours with 14 kills apiece. Bauder added 15 digs and was among three Cascades in double figures in that key defensive statistic, along with Amy Davidson (21) and Kelly Robertson (16).

Monique Huber led the team with four aces to go with six kills and two blocks, and Funk notched four blocks.

The Cascades had plenty to cheer about as they rallied during the third and fourth sets, but the VIU Mariners struck back in the fifth.

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The University of the Fraser Valley is situated on the unceded traditional territory of the Stó:lō peoples. The Stó:lō have an intrinsic relationship with what they refer to as S’olh Temexw (Our Sacred Land); therefore, we express our gratitude and respect for the honour of living and working in this territory.

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