The Vancouver Island University Mariners defended their No. 1 national ranking in impressive fashion on Saturday, capping a weekend sweep of the University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team with a three-set triumph at the Envision Athletic Centre.
The Cascades had pushed the Mariners to five sets on Friday evening, but the visitors came back with a more efficient effort in the rematch, prevailing by scores of 25-23, 25-22 and 25-20.
That’s not to say UFV didn’t have their chances. In the first set, the Cascades fell behind 17-11 before storming back to take a 23-22 lead. But after a timeout, the Mariners reeled off the next three points to take the set, and they were off to the races from there.
“You take that first game, and you put that pressure back on them,” UFV head coach Mike Gilray noted afterward. “We got our serve in at 23-22, they didn’t pass a great ball, and we weren’t able to execute on that side out. And then we made two errors on the next two (points).
“We made some big errors in the middle of that first game, and then four errors inside 20, and we still had the lead at 23. We can’t keep giving a team like that opportunities. When they got their chance, they executed and put game point away, right? We have to be better. We have to learn to execute on those big points.”
The Cascades fell to 7-13, good for fifth place in the PACWEST, while the front-running Mariners boosted their record to 15-3.
Right side Kim Bauder paced UFV in both kills (nine) and digs (10), and middle Monique Huber (seven kills with a .455 hitting percentage, four blocks, two aces) and left side Chelsea Kidd (four kills on a .273 hitting percentage) also had solid performances. Kelly Robertson and Rachel Funk excelled on serve receive, posting 2.5 and 2.37 ratings, respectively.
“That’s the difference between good and great right now – they’re executing when it matters, and we’re not,” Gilray summarized, reflecting on the lessons his team can take away from playing the nation’s top-ranked team.
“To beat the best team in the country and the best team in our league, you’ve got to be connecting. You don’t have to be perfect, but you have to be consistent and you have to put them under pressure. When we were in pressure situations, we didn’t execute.”
The Cascades 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.