Weekend preview: Wrestlers at Canada West championships, basketball and volleyball teams on road

The University of the Fraser Valley wrestling program heads to Saskatoon this weekend for the Canada West conference championships, and their Cascades basketball and volleyball counterparts also hit the road as their respective regular-season schedules approach their conclusion.

WRES: Cascades grapplers seek Canada West gold

Amtoj Dhaliwal of the Cascades (right) is aiming for the podium at the Canada West championships.

Friday/Saturday: Cascades at Canada West Championships

University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon SK

The Cascades don’t expect to be in the mix for team championships at this year’s edition of the Canada West conference tourney, but they figure to contend for plenty of individual hardware at the University of Saskatchewan.

Seven UFV wrestlers will be attending: Brad Hildenbrandt (130 kg), Amtoj Dhaliwal (82 kg), Haseeb Javed (61 kg) and Kamil Golowoko (100 kg) on the men’s side, and Karla Godinez Gonzalez (51 kg), Ashley Coupal (48 kg) and Pravi Dhaliwal (59 kg) on the women’s side.

“We’re still a really young team, so I don’t see us winning a team title,” Cascades co-head coach Raj Virdi said. “But the individuals we take to the tournament should do really well and we should bring home some medals. We’ve had a great young group to work with this year.”

Athletes to watch: Heavyweight Hildenbrandt has his sights set on gold – he won the last two conference events, the Golden Bear Invitational and UFV’s own Cascades Classic, in impressive fashion. Godinez Gonzalez, Coupal and Amtoj Dhaliwal have also earned podium finishes at Canada West tournaments this season.

MBB: Cascades aim to lock up playoff berth in Kelowna

Anthony Gilchrist and the Cascades need one win to clinch a playoff berth.

Friday: Cascades (9-9, 8th in Canada West) at UBC Okanagan Heat (2-16, 17th in Canada West), 8 p.m.

Saturday: Cascades at Heat, 7 p.m.

Webcast: ufv.canadawest.tv

On the last weekend of the Canada West basketball regular season, the Cascades are on the brink of clinching a playoff berth – they’re in eighth place coming in, and 12 of 17 teams advance to the post-season. Fourteen teams have at least seven wins, though, so head coach Adam Friesen’s charges still have work to do. And beyond just punching their playoff ticket, a pair of weekend victories would go a long way towards improving their seeding, which is determined by RPI, a strength-of-schedule metric.

“Our big thing will just be to focus on ourselves, and continue the good basketball we’ve been playing these last four or five weeks,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen said. “I think the group, overall, has been coming together and developing more chemistry. That shows in our ball movement and how guys are trusting one another to make plays.”

The Cascades’ opponent this weekend, the UBC Okanagan Heat, sits in last place and has struggled offensively this season, averaging just 66.3 points per game.

Players to watch: Keep an eye on Manny Dulay this weekend – UFV’s fifth-year point guard has a shot at a couple of long-distance shooting milestones. The Surrey, B.C. product has hit 236 three-pointers in his Canada West career, including a nation-leading 72 this season. Four more treys this weekend will move him into third place all-time in Canada West, ahead of Casey Archibald (UBC Thunderbirds, 2002-07) and Danny Balderson (Lethbridge Pronghorns, 1993-95, 1997-2000). Eleven more triples would set a new conference single-season record – the current mark is 82, currently co-held by Nathan Dixon (Manitoba Bisons, 2008-09) and Daniel Ferguson (Alberta Golden Bears, 2010-11). The Heat have a terrific high-volume shooter of their own in Aldrich Berrios – he’s third in the conference with 53 treys this season, hitting 40.8 per cent from beyond the arc and averaging 17.2 points per game.

WBB: Cascades look to finish regular season strong vs. Heat

Shayna Litman (3) is coming off a strong weekend vs. UVic.

Friday: Cascades (11-7, 8th in Canada West) at UBC Okanagan Heat (3-15, T-14th in Canada West), 6 p.m.

Saturday: Cascades at Heat, 5 p.m.

Webcast: ufv.canadawest.tv

The Cascades women’s hoopsters are already assured a post-season berth, but what’s on the line for them this weekend is the right to host a first-round series. The top eight teams in RPI will host playoff games (the top four receive a bye), and UFV is currently sixth.

The Heat have been eliminated from playoff contention, but they’ve traditionally played the Cascades tough – last season, they picked up a win over UFV in Abbotsford.

“With the way our playoffs are structured, every game is important with trying to get as many RPI points as we can, and that influences our first-round playoff match-up,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer noted. “UBCO is a veteran team that has a few fourth- and fifth-year players who know how to play and how to compete, and they’ve played against us for a number of years and have historically played well against us. We can’t take anything for granted.”

Players to watch: Fourth-year power forward Shayna Litman is coming off a strong weekend against the Victoria Vikes – she notched 10 points and six rebounds in Friday’s opener, and followed with a 20-point, six-board outing on Saturday to help spark the Cascades to a come-from-behind victory. The Coquitlam, B.C. product is third on the team in scoring (9.7 points per game) and rebounding (5.2). The Heat are led by fifth-year guard Emily Kanester, who averages 12.0 points and 2.1 assists per game.

MVB: Long road trip will test Cascades’ momentum

Isaiah Dahl, Matt Whittall and Ben Friesen of the Cascades head to Cranbrook this weekend.

Friday: Cascades (15-5, 2nd in PACWEST) at College of the Rockies Avalanche (9-13, 5th in PACWEST), 8 p.m. MST

Saturday: Cascades at Avalanche, 3 p.m. MST

Webcast: pacwestbc.tv

The Cascades men’s volleyball team looked mighty impressive in its last game action, a four-set win over the Vancouver Island University Mariners, ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time. But by the time they hit the court vs. the College of the Rockies Avalanche this weekend, that game will be nearly two weeks in the rear-view mirror – UFV is coming off its bye week, and will have put plenty of snowy miles under their odometer on the way to Cranbrook.

That said, Cascades head coach Kyle Donen feels that any rust or road-weariness will be counterbalanced by the fact that his team will be hungry after the Avalanche defeated the Cascades in their last head-to-head meeting, Nov. 27 in Abbotsford.

“We didn’t put our best foot forward the last time we played them, so we have some motivation to play well in their gym,” Donen explained. “We’re focused on trying to lock up that second spot (in PACWEST), but first and foremost, we need to put together two strong games. The way the weather is right now, it’s unclear how long it’ll take us to get there, but we’re ready for the challenge ahead.”

Players to watch: Cascades sophomore middle Connor Pruim was last week’s PACWEST men’s volleyball athlete of the week after excelling vs. VIU. He’s a dominant force at the net, sitting second in the league in blocks (0.90 per set). The Avalanche’s most dangerous attacker is Australian Patrik Toze, who ranks eight in total offence (3.31 points/set).

WVB: Cascades look to improve playoff seeding vs. Avalanche

Cascades head coach Mike Gilray and his charges have clinched a playoff berth and are now looking to climb the standings.

Friday: Cascades (7-13, 6th in PACWEST) at College of the Rockies Avalanche (8-14, 5th in PACWEST), 6 p.m. MST

Saturday: Cascades at Avalanche, 1 p.m. MST

Webcast: pacwestbc.tv

The Cascades locked up a playoff spot during their bye week, as the seventh-place Columbia Bible College Bearcats split a pair of games at College of the Rockies. There’s still plenty to play for this weekend, though – the Avalanche are just one game ahead of UFV, and a pair of weekend wins would move the Cascades up to the fifth seed.

“It’s about preparing for playoffs right now,” UFV head coach Mike Gilray said. “I’m anxious to see where we’re at with COTR since the last time we played them. We’ve figured some things out positionally since then.

“They’re a really feisty team, and it’s a fun gym to play in, lots of energy. I’m excited for the challenges this week is going to bring us.”

Players to watch: Cascades third-year left side Rachel Funk has led the team offensively this season, ranking sixth in PACWEST in kills (2.91 per set) and eighth in total offence (3.47 points/set). The Avalanche’s Adriel Goodman is also in the top 10 in both kills (2.67/set, ninth) and total offence (3.50 points/set, seventh) and will merit a great deal of UFV’s defensive attention.

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