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.
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.”
Tough way to conclude my career with volleyball and UFV but I’m so thankful for the friendships I’ve made along this road. I’d trade a championship for the long lasting relationships I’ve made any day! I’m so thankful and I truly owe it all to God for the phenomenal opportunities that keep coming my way, and to my family and friends thanks for the unconditional love and support over the years. I can’t wait to keep doing life and ride the road that lies ahead. It’s been a slice fam #cheers #UFV #career #family #thankful