In a game of wild momentum swings, the University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball squad was unable to capture it for long enough, dropping a four-set decision to the College of the Rockies Avalanche in the PACWEST quarter-finals on Thursday.
Playing at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, the No. 4-seeded Avalanche prevailed by scores of 25-23, 25-21, 19-25, 25-23 and will move on to face host VIU in Friday’s semifinals. The No. 5 seed Cascades, meanwhile, saw their season come to an end.
Despite losing the first set, UFV head coach Mike Gilray felt his charges were in good shape – they were earning plenty of points and had good energy, it was just a matter of cutting down on the points they were giving the Avalanche via errors.
The start of the second set, though, was far from ideal as COTR raced out to a 15-3 advantage. The Cascades were undeterred, and responded with eight straight points behind some tough serving from Kim Bauder. They would eventually knot the score 20-20, but the Avalanche regrouped and scored five of the next six points to take the set.
UFV controlled the third set and took it in relatively straightforward fashion, but in the fourth, COTR came up big in the late going to punch their semifinal ticket and eliminate the Cascades.
“As a coach, I’ve got to take one and say I didn’t have my team playing its best volleyball at the end of the year,” UFV head coach Mike Gilray said afterward. “Offensively, we just didn’t connect today . . . COTR was the better team.”
That said, the Cascades did excel in several facets of the game on Thursday. They had their best passing game of the year in Gilray’s estimation, led by Rachel Funk (17 digs) and Amy Davidson (13 digs), and also had a strong performance at the service line paced by Bauder’s three aces.
Funk’s 15 kills were a team-high, Cassidy Pearson came off the bench in the second set to notch 11 kills, and Monique Huber had 10 kills.
Thursday’s result was “a little sour-tasting,” Gilray noted, but he believes the team progressed this season. Nearly the entire roster, with the notable exception of middle Mandelyn Erikson (graduation), is set to return in 2017-18.
“A lot of other teams are graduating a lot of fifth-years, and we really feel or program’s moving in the right direction,” he said. “If we take this loss as a learning point, it’ll be a key moment for this program moving forward.”