The University of the Fraser Valley men’s volleyball squad saw an opportunity to qualify for the national championship elude them on Friday afternoon, as they dropped a four-set decision to the Camosun Chargers in the PACWEST semifinals in Nanaimo.
The Cascades, ranked No. 7 in the nation after finishing second in conference play, and the third-seeded Camosun Chargers were vying for not just a PACWEST title shot, but for one of the league’s two berths to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) championship at Fanshawe College in London, Ont., March 9-11.
The Chargers punched their ticket thanks in large part to an outstanding defensive performance, prevailing by scores of 25-20, 25-12, 19-25, 25-22. They move on to face the winner of Friday’s late semifinal between top-seeded host Vancouver Island University and the No. 5 Douglas Royals, while the UFV takes on the loser in the bronze medal match at 3 p.m. Saturday. All PACWEST championship matches are webcast at pacwestbc.tv.
“I don’t think we played our best, that’s obvious,” Cascades head coach Kyle Donen said. “We weren’t consistent when we needed to be. I don’t know if it was one specific area that broke down – we had areas in our game that would be really, really good, and then that would change. Some things just didn’t go our way tonight. The frustrating part was that they (the Chargers) played really well defensively tonight. They made some one-armed digs that gave them chances at extra points, and we weren’t able do the same ourselves.”
After the Chargers claimed a closely contested first set – aided by several untimely Cascades service errors – they took over in the second, quickly stretching the lead to double digits and cruising from there. It seemed that nothing UFV tried offensively resulted in the ball hitting the floor on the other side of the net, while Camosun could do little wrong.
The Cascades found their mojo in the third set behind some explosive serving from fifth-year right side Joel Kleingeltink – he sparked a 7-0 run midway through the set which gave UFV a 19-14 lead, and they finished it off from there.
But in the fourth, Camosun made a mid-set run of their own to erase what had been a three-point Cascades lead and surge ahead by four themselves, 18-14. The deficit proved too much for UFV to overcome.
The Cascades were paced by sophomore left side Ben Friesen’s game-high 17 kills, and libero Isaiah Dahl racked up 24 digs. Savana Walkingbear sparked the Camosun offence with 13 kills, while libero Elion Wong registered 21 digs en route to player of the match honours.
Regrouping mentally to play for bronze will be a challenge for a squad which had higher hopes, but Donen said the Cascades will be ready.
“I think the boys will recognize the importance, and they’ll come out a lot better tomorrow,” he said. “This day is done, and we know we can be a good enough team to get a medal. It was a goal from the start of the year to get a medal, and we still have a chance to win one.”