Cascades shake slow start, beat Bearcats in four sets

Mandelyn Erikson and the Cascades recovered from a slow start to down the CBC Bearcats in four sets on Thursday. (UFV Athletics file photo)

The University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team hadn’t tasted game action in nearly three weeks, and in the early portion of Thursday’s clash against the Columbia Bible College Bearcats, the rust was readily apparent.

The host Bearcats thumped the Cascades 25-12 in the opening set, but UFV flipped the switch in the second, answering with a 25-10 blowout win of their own. The Cascades clawed out a 25-23 triumph in the third before wrapping up the match 25-14 in the fourth.

Crosstown rivals UFV (8-15, sixth in PACWEST) and CBC (4-19, seventh) finish their respective conference schedules on Saturday, playing the back end of the home-and-home set at the Envision Athletic Centre (5 p.m. start, webcast at pacwestbc.tv).

The Cascades’ bye week was followed by the cancellation of last weekend’s road trip to College of the Rockies due to dangerous road conditions. Head coach Mike Gilray told his squad not to use the lengthy layoff as an excuse for subpar play, and after working out some kinks in the first set, they excelled the rest of the way.

“Tonight they (the Bearcats) came out flying – they were hitting everything hard and we were having a tough time controlling it,” Gilray said. “We knew they were going to come ready to play, and we weren’t able to match it at the start.

“We were able to put that aside and it was good. We handled our errors better mentally (in the second through fourth sets) and forced them to win more points.”

Setter Jessica Funk and left side Rachel Funk, the Cascades’ sibling duo, led the way offensively on Thursday. And with standout middle Monique Huber sidelined due to injury, rookies Hanna Hieltjes and Teagan Johnstone were thrust into the fray – Hieltjes stepping into the starting lineup, and Johnstone playing her first points of the season off the bench. Gilray was happy with the performance of both youngsters, and was particularly pleased to see Johnstone back on the court after enduring a shoulder injury early in the season.

“It was a good battle,” Gilray summarized. “Their crowd is loud, and it helps us get ready for provincials.”

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