Weekend preview: Cascades basketball, volleyball teams hit the road

It’s a quiet weekend at the Envision Athletic Centre, as the University of the Fraser Valley basketball and volleyball teams embark on Friday-Saturday road trips to the provincial capitals of Alberta and B.C., respectively.

WBB: Cascades look to continue to climb standings

Shayna Litman and the Cascades visit the second-place Alberta Pandas this weekend.

Friday: Cascades (8-4, T-5th in Canada West) at Alberta Pandas (12-2, 2nd in Canada West), 6 p.m. MST

Saturday: Cascades at Dinos, 5 p.m.

Webcast: ufv.canadawest.tv

This weekend is a bit of déjà vu for the Cascades – coming off a tough road trip to take on a team which blew them out in the preseason (the Calgary Dinos), they head eastward once again to face another imposing foe in the Alberta Pandas.

The Cascades navigated last weekend’s challenge successfully, earning a split with the Dinos. Up next is a Pandas squad which won its first 11 conference games of the season but has dropped two of its last three.

UFV and Alberta clashed on Oct. 6 at the Regina Cougars preseason tournament, with the Pandas prevailing 76-56. But the Cascades have come a long way since then – they’re currently third in the conference in RPI, which determines playoff seeding.

“It was great to get a come-from-behind win in a tough place to play last week in Calgary, and that task doesn’t get any easier this week,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer noted. “Alberta has some really talented veteran players, and they’re always a team that takes great shots and are difficult to defend. Our defence will really be challenged by this squad.”

Players to watch: Cascades third-year guard Sydney Williams is coming off a sensational shooting performance in last Friday’s 69-60 win over Calgary. The Langley, B.C. product knocked down seven three-pointers, accounting for all of her game-high 21 points, and she’s averaging an even 8.0 points and 5.0 rebounds this season. For the Pandas, fifth-year guard Maddie Rogers has led the way offensively with 15.6 points and a conference-best 4.2 assists per game.

MBB: Cascades aim for upset vs. nationally ranked Bears

Andrew Morris’s ability to get to the basket has been key for the Cascades in recent weeks.

Friday: Cascades (5-7, T-11th in Canada West) at Alberta Golden Bears (11-3, 2nd in Canada West), 8 p.m. MST

Saturday: Cascades at Golden Bears, 7 p.m.

Webcast: ufv.canadawest.tv

It’s a similar storyline for the Cascades men’s basketball team – one week after clashing with the U Sports No. 5-ranked Calgary Dinos, they’re right back at it against another nationally ranked opponent in the No. 6 Alberta Golden Bears.

This weekend’s match-up features two of the conference’s most efficient three-point shooting teams. The Cascades rank third in shooting percentage from beyond the arc, swishing 37.5 per cent of their attempts, but the Golden Bears are even better, hitting an eye-popping 42.1 per cent from downtown as a team.

“They’re a really dangerous team with their ability to stretch the floor and shoot the three, but also, with the individual match-ups that Brody Clarke and Mamadou Gueye present,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen noted. “We have to try to do our best to slow down their two star players, and then have the ability to scramble out and find their shooters.

“This part of our schedule, we’re playing a couple of the better teams in the league, and our mentality will be the same as in Calgary. We’re excited about the challenge, eager to test ourselves, and looking to get better through the experience.”

Players to watch: One of the encouraging developments for the Cascades in the early portion of the second semester has been the progress of their younger players, including rookie point guard Riley Braich. The prized recruit out of Yale Secondary in Abbotsford has seen his playing time increase since the Christmas break, and he scored a career-high 14 points last Thursday vs. Calgary. Mamadou Gueye, a 6’6” fourth-year wing who was a Canada West second team all-star last season, leads the Golden Bears in scoring (15.4 points per game).

WVB: Playoff positioning on the line in Victoria

Rachel Funk, Amy Davidson and Kim Bauder (from left) will look to help the Cascades have success against Camosun on the road.

Friday: Cascades (5-11, 6th in PACWEST) at Camosun Chargers (5-9, 5th in PACWEST), 6 p.m. PST

Saturday: Cascades at Chargers, 1 p.m.

Webcast: pacwestbc.tv

At first glance, it would appear the Cascades and Chargers have plenty at stake this weekend – both teams have five wins, and are jockeying for playoff seeding. The stakes are lower for Camosun, though – they’re already assured of a CCAA national championship berth by virtue of the fact they’re hosting the tournament.

The Cascades have no such luxury – with a two-game lead on the Columbia Bible College Bearcats for the final PACWEST playoff spot with eight games remaining, wins are at a premium.

“This is a big weekend for us,” Cascades head coach Mike Gilray acknowledged. “It’s a team that we’re tied with (on wins), and if we can go in and create some separation, it’s good. But we’re also two wins out of the basement, and CBC is good enough to sweep any weekend. So we have to be keeping pace, or hopefully separating ourselves, each weekend.

“Wins are tough to come by in this league. You’ve got to go out and put yourself in a good situation.”

The Cascades and Chargers split a pair of games in Abbotsford in the fall – Camosun prevailed in four sets on Nov. 4, and UFV returned the favour with a four-set triumph on Nov. 5.

Players to watch: Cascades fourth-year middle Monique Huber is a peerless weapon at the service line – she leads the PACWEST in aces with 0.54 per set, and she chips in with 2.61 points per set of total offence, good for 19th in the league. The Chargers counter with an outstanding left side in Michelle Zygmunt, an Abbotsford product and former Cascade who ranks third overall in total offence (4.00 points per set).

MVB: Cascades look to stay hot vs. Chargers

The Cascades men’s volleyball team has had plenty to celebrate thus far in 2017.

Friday: Cascades (13-3, 2nd in PACWEST) at Camosun Chargers (9-5, 3rd in PACWEST), 8 p.m. PST

Saturday: Cascades at Chargers, 3 p.m.

Webcast: pacwestbc.tv

It’s a tough road swing for the Cascades, but they’re coming in hot – they’re on a five-game win streak which dates back to the first semester.

With a weekend sweep, UFV would create an additional two games of separation between themselves and third-place Camosun, and move to the brink of clinching a top-two PACWEST regular-season finish which comes with a first-round playoff bye.

The CCAA No. 8-ranked Cascades swept the Chargers in Abbotsford Nov. 4 and Nov. 5 – both four-setters – but knocking off the reigning PACWEST champs on their home court will be a tougher task.

“We talked about it a lot going into the second semester, that we really wanted to come out of the gate strong, and we’ve done that,” UFV head coach Kyle Donen noted. “We started on the right foot and we’re feeling good about our game.

“Each weekend has been a bigger test, and this is our first real road trip (outside the Lower Mainland) of the second half. We’re definitely having a good semester – we’re just trying to take it one match at a time.”

Players to watch: Sophomore left side Ben Friesen’s emergence has been critical to the Cascades’ success this season – he’s risen to fourth on the PACWEST total offence chart, racking up 5.21 points per set to sit just behind teammate Joel Kleingeltink (5.51). On the Chargers’ side of the net, outside hitter Savana Walkingbear is the reigning PACWEST men’s volleyball athlete of the week, and he’s ninth overall in total offence (4.65 points/set).

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