Royals rally, deny Cascades volleyball men in PACWEST bronze medal game

UFV’s Joel Kleingeltink (13) rises for a kill during Saturday’s PACWEST bronze medal game. (Photos courtesy Northfield Photography)

The Douglas Royals authored a stunning comeback at the expense of the University of the Fraser Valley men’s volleyball team on Saturday, claiming the PACWEST bronze medal in a wild five-set match at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo.

The Cascades – seeded second in the conference and ranked No. 7 in the nation – were coming off a four-set loss to the Camosun Chargers 24 hours earlier in the semifinals with a CCAA championship berth on the line. They started slowly in the bronze medal match, dropping the first set 25-18, but looked more like themselves in the second and third, prevailing by scores of 25-20 and 25-23, the latter set sealed by a massive Joel Kleingeltink kill.

Cascades libero Isaiah Dahl slides in for a dig.

The fourth set was a back-and-forth struggle – UFV went on an early seven-point run behind Dan Tang’s serving to go up 7-2, and they led 14-9 and 18-14 at later junctures. The Royals responded with an 8-2 run to surge ahead 22-20, but the next four points belonged to the Cascades – the last two coming courtesy of middle Dayton Pagliericci, who got a block followed by a kill.

That set up UFV with two match points, but Douglas put the ball away off the next UFV serve for a side out, and subsequently blocked Kleingeltink to tie it up 24-24. From there, they managed to claw out a 28-26 win to force a fifth set, where they led wire-to-wire and took it 15-8.

“It wasn’t our weekend, and it wasn’t our game,” Cascades head coach Kyle Donen said afterward. “We kind of let Douglas back in and gave them a shot, and they took it. I hope we learned a lesson for the guys who are coming back, and for this program moving forward.”

To finish within a whisker of the podium was particularly tough to process in light of the Cascades’ stellar regular season, which saw them post a 17-7 record (with two losses via forfeit after a road trip to College of the Rockies was cancelled due to road conditions) and earn a first-round playoff bye.

“That’s the toughest part for right now,” said Donen, whose program is waving goodbye to fifth-year all-star Kleingeltink. “It’s hard to understand how good of a year we had, based on the way we finished. But that’s the truth – we had a great regular season.

“It didn’t transfer into the playoffs, but I hope it fuels the fire for the guys coming back.”

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