The University of the Fraser Valley men’s volleyball team asserted its place among the nation’s elite, defeating the No. 1-ranked team in the country – the Vancouver Island University Mariners – in four sets on Saturday afternoon.
The Cascades had come awfully close to pulling off an upset on Friday at the Envision Athletic Centre, but the Mariners fended them off in five sets. Given a second chance less than 24 hours later, UFV got the job done in impressive fashion, prevailing 25-21, 25-21, 22-25, 25-12.
“To play this well at home for a full weekend, it feels really good,” Cascades head coach Kyle Donen enthused afterward. “We let one get away last night, we had our chances to win it, and to be able to pull out a W this afternoon is huge.
“But at the same time, it’s just another day. It’s another day where we’re trying to get better, and we’re going to want to play them again. Because if we stay second (in the PACWEST) and they stay first, we’re going to be on opposite sides (of the conference playoff bracket), and the only way we play them again is for the chance to go to nationals.”
The Cascades, No. 8 in the CCAA national rankings, improved to 15-5 while the Mariners fell to 16-2.
After winning the first two sets on Saturday, UFV fell behind 6-1 in the third and were unable to complete the comeback.
But they were focused to start the fourth, racing out to a quick 10-5 lead and later reeling off a 6-0 run behind the serving of Dayton Pagliericci and tough play at the net from Connor Pruim to make it 19-10 and effectively eliminate any suspense as to the final outcome.
“In the third set after we started slow, it looked a bit like last night, and I made a comment before the fourth that we’ve got to start better,” Donen said. “We did a really good job of using all of our weapons tonight.”
Senior right side Joel Kleingeltink paced the Cascades with 14 kills, and both UFV middles also came up big – Pagliericci had 11 kills and a team-high six blocks, and Pruim had seven kills and three blocks.
The weekend performance was reminiscent of the last time a No. 1-ranked team came to Abbotsford – the Camosun Chargers in January 2016. The Cascades fell in five sets on the Friday, but broke through the following afternoon for a five-set win of their own.
The UFV volleyball teams are on a bye next weekend, and return to action Feb. 10-11 with a road trip to Cranbrook to face the College of the Rockies Avalanche.