The University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team clawed out a five-set victory over their crosstown rivals, the Columbia Bible College Bearcats, on Saturday evening to close out the PACWEST regular season.
Playing in the North Gym at the Envision Athletic Centre, the Cascades (9-15) completed a sweep of the home-and-home series, having picked up a four-set triumph at CBC on Thursday. They head into the conference playoffs at Vancouver Island University next week as the No. 5 seed, and they’ll face the No. 4 College of the Rockies Avalanche in the quarter-finals. The Bearcats (4-20) fell short of qualifying for the PACWEST post-season.
The Cascades got off to a solid start on Saturday, winning the first two sets by 25-17 and 26-24 scores. CBC, though, dug deep and took the next two 25-20 and 25-23, reeling off the last five points of the fourth set to send it to a fifth.
The hosts steadied themselves at the finish, prevailing 15-9 to head to the post-season on a winning note.
“They (the Bearcats) are a team that’s high-energy, and they love that crowd,” Cascades head coach Mike Gilray said, alluding to the CBC faithful who made the short journey across town to UFV. “I think they were able to play really free in that this was the last game of their season and they had nothing to lose. A team like that is scary, because they can just whale. When their swings were in, they had some big hits and they’re hard to slow down. If they miss big, they miss big.
“I felt like our team had to match that energy, and to keep it going for five sets was tough for us. It was a great learning environment for us to be in,” he added. “I really wanted our starters to have to battle in a fifth set against a team like that, and I think they did a great job making really good choices and scoring really big points.”
The Cascades’ sibling duo of left side Rachel and setter Jessica Funk set the tone offensively once again on Saturday, and Kim Bauder – limited by injury for much of the second semester – also had a strong performance, particularly at the service line.
The game marked the home-court finale for Cascades middle Mandelyn Erikson. The Delta, B.C. product is in her third year of eligibility, but she’s been at UFV for four years with one redshirt season. She’s set to graduate in the spring and intends to move on.
“It definitely hit home for me,” Erikson said, reflecting on her last home game at UFV. “Coming into today, I had everyone and all their parents texting me – ‘Are you excited for tonight? And you nervous?’ . . . I just tried to keep my head clear going into the game. It definitely meant a lot winning tonight. Not only did we win, but we really fought, and I think that’s going to bring us closer as a team for the upcoming provincials.”
Gilray termed Erikson a “great leader” with a unique ability to connect with younger players on the team.
“She’s top-three in our team in GPA, she’s a leader, and she’s really grown as a player,” he noted. “She’s elite in her position in the league, and that’s hard to come by. She is definitely going to be missed.”